Bright Engrams Revisited

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Over the last few nights I have been super engaged with the start of the new Destiny 2 season.  One of the things I dig so much about it is how I can focus in on a different activity each night and vary up what I am doing…  but still enjoy whatever it is that I am doing.  I am not so much into the Crucible so I have not touched that this week yet, but one night I focused on the Planetary Flashpoint, another I really focused on Gambit, and last night for example I mostly focused on completing stuff in the Dreaming City including a bunch of Blind Well.  At some point I am sure I will at least do 3 strikes and 3 heroic story missions to get the powerful engrams included.  The only complaint I have to be honest is the fact that I keep getting Helmets instead of pieces of 600 gear that I actually still need for a given slot.

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One of the things that came up in my little social community was some comments about loot boxes and how a friend of mine did not like the Destiny 2 implementation.  On one level yeah… it is less than optimal, but after living with it for awhile and having them tweak the formula… I no longer feel it is anywhere near as heinous as some of the loot box schemes I have seen.  What changed is there are a bunch of tweaks that were made, not the least of which is the fact that once you have earned an item you can always go into your collections tab.  This is any weapons that are static rolls, so basically anything pre-forsaken…  any ghosts, sparrows, ships, shaders, etc so essentially anything has less need for permanence which is making me way more liberal at scrapping things.  As a result I almost always have a decent balance of Dust… which you can see in the above picture is like 6044.  This morning I opened one of the Bright Engrams and got a skin for one of the Titan exotics, 3 shaders, and a bounty note.  The skin could be scrapped but I have not collected it yet so that was not going to happen, the shaders scrap at around 10 dust per… and the bounty note is turned in for Tess Everis specific bounties that reward glimmer and dust.

Essentially I feel like the game is giving us a bunch of options to get cash shop goods without spending any real world money.  There is always the problem that everything coming from a Bright Engram is super random…  but that is mitigated by the fact that each week during a given season Tess is offering a bunch of items for direct purchase.  Last week they had a ton of the exotic items but this week it looks like they are mostly selling legendary stuff…  2 emotes, 2 sparrows, 2 ships, 1 ghost shell, one armor piece and a couple of the exotic weapon skins.  Basically this helps to mitigate the randomness of the engrams and allows you to just straight out buy the item you were wanting.  Unfortunately this also means you need to be logging in each week to check out and see if Tess is selling that one thing you really wanted.

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In a night of casual play I tend to get one or two engrams as the bar feels like it fills way faster than it used to.  You can see in the above shot that I am pretty damned close to getting one, and that happened to be the one I opened this morning and screenshot its contents.  One night this week I got 3, and last weekend there was a really heavy play day that I got four of them in a single day.  Essentially I am saying that they are way more generous with said loot baubles, at least compared to how it felt when the game initially launched.  This isn’t a “Belghast Luck” thing because experience game is experience gain for everyone, and sure maybe the fact that the first engram I opened this season gave me the sweet ghost rider sparrow…  is luck.  Anyways I just wanted to take a moment to talk about the cash shop in Destiny 2 and how it has gone from really horrible… to completely manageable.  Having a cash shop in a game is always going to incur some problems, but the tweaks they have made since launch have turned this one into a completely manageable situation.  The biggest change for me personally was when I realized I could re-buy shaders… which has made me way more cool with scrapping them knowing that if I really want a specific color I can buy it again.

Wildstar Thoughts

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I am having one of those mornings when I am not entirely certain I have thoughts that are worth sharing.  However because of the ritual that I have built up for myself I am going to share something anyway.  I consistently have a chorus of “no one wants to hear about that” running through my head as I write most of my posts.  I think that is in part why I struggle so hard when someone says something nice to me about my blog or any of the other things I do.  I feel like I really have no clue what I am doing and even more so why anyone would care about it.  I am super appreciative that people do seem to care, but I feel like one of these days everyone is going to pull back the curtain and realize what a boring person I am.  Worse I have an unshakable fear that I am a fraud and that some terribly clever person is going to write a lengthy essay on medium pointing out this fact and cause you all to hate me.  Medium feels like it is a site entirely about writing lengthy essays about exposing harsh truths about the things we love.

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Sometimes I start writing and things just veer wildly off course, and I have a feeling that is precisely what is happening this morning.  Yesterday afternoon at 2pm pst Wildstar went dark as a game and I have some weird feelings about it.  This was not an important game to me personally, in fact I struggled to figure out why everyone liked it so much.  That said I realize that it was a very important game for an awful lot of the people who I care about in my life.  This is in part why I kept trying to unlock the puzzle about what made it feel good to play.  Probably the happiest I was with the game was when I was playing my Chua Engineer and even then…  largely because of the adorable bot army that I drug along with me.  The core problem there is… that the vast majority of the friends I had playing the game on the regular were Exiles not Dominion.  Sure this eventually changed so that you could cross faction until your heart was content… but I think by then it was too far past that golden time in which a game really has to hook me on its charm.

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There was something about the game that caused me to struggle with it.  There was a certain sensory overload that I felt each time I played, with too many things going on with the UI and the telegraphs that just left my eyes feeling immensely tired after playing it for a short period of time.  I realize this is weird given that I have always been one of those people who prefers to have a massive number of UI elements on screen in World of Warcraft, but the combination of this and the action combat proved to be more than I could handle most of the time.  I am regretful that I never managed to make it to the level cap or really experience any of the endgame content.  I had multiple characters largely fall off the face of the leveling curve in Whitevale…  and I am not entirely certain what specifically about that zone caused me to lose all forward momentum.

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All of that said I have to tell you that Wildstar had quite possibly the best housing system I have seen in a game, namely the way you could set up your little pocket dimension to be whatever you wanted it to be…  along with interesting minigames to play.  It also had an excellent cosmetic gear and dye pot system that I hope going forward more games pay attention to.  It was a game that gave its players so many nice systems, and I think that is in part why it had a generally thriving social structure.  There are a good number of people that I met through the game that have become fixtures of my Twitter feed in a daily basis, and I am thankful that I got to meet all of them.  Said feed was completely breaking my heart as I watched so many emotional posts scrolling by in the last hours of the game before they finally shut things down.  I think what probably makes this worse… is the fact that Wildstar lasted far longer than anyone actually expected it would given NC Soft’s track record of shuttering still relatively popular franchises.

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At this point however I am not entirely certain which is worse.  Watching a game get shuttered, or having a game purchased by a company that you are almost certain is going to do bad things to the game.  I watched Hellgate London be bastardized by Hanbitsoft and then get regurgitated back onto Steam in a form that is at times barely recognizable to the original.  Recently Trion Worlds was purchased by a company that has games in its stable with literally temporary inventory bags that expire after seven days.  So I have nothing but the worst fears about how Rift is going to change under their stewardship.  So I am not sure if it is worse to see a game completely close its doors, or to watch it flop around in a zombie state for awhile muddying your memories of it.  As I have said before when this sort of thing happens…  these MMO games that we love are fleeting.  Grab on with both hands and enjoy them while you still can, because eventually…  they are likely going to shut their doors either replaced by something shiny and new or because the players disappeared over time.  In the case of Wildstar we can only hope that a Server Emulator is far enough along to be able to create a fan run server like the thriving Star Wars Galaxies community or the Age of Reckoning Warhammer Online community.

 

 

Season of the Forge

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For the last few days I have been on the cusp of coming down with something I think, but the problem is my schedule does not really allow me to take a day off right now to recuperate.  If I were to take off right now, deadlines would suffer… so as a result I have been taking some over the counter stuff to try and limp along until I can collapse.  Last night however I probably should not have taken that NyQuil, because this morning…  I am groggy as hell.  Last night however was the beginning of the 5th season of Destiny 2 and it seems like they are mixing things up a bit.  For the last few seasons in Diablo 3 there has been an overarching theme to a new season… and it seems like maybe Bungie is borrowing this concept.  The latest “This Week At Bungie” blog post goes into more detail about this, but there is a fairly packed roadmap content wise that we can look forward to.

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As far as last night…  I focused on starting the Pinnacle Weapon quests that I actually feel like I have a shot at getting before the end of the season.

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Pinnacle Weapons are more or less a unique weapon that you can grind for during the season.  There is one tied to Vanguard Strikes, another tied to the Gambit event, and another tied to how far progressed you make it rank wise in the Crucible.  Given that I love Autorifles because I am a noob…  I decided to spend a good deal of last night working on trying to get the Gambit based weapon called Breakneck.  I think in part I just like the old world feel of the weapons that The Drifter offers.  As you can see you need to play a minimum of 40 matches of Gambit, and also do a bunch of other things in the process.  Now my hope is that by the time I have played my 40… I will have long since completed the other objectives.  My goal is to play a handful of rounds of Gambit and run a few Strikes every night to begin whittling away at this objective over time.  The truth is that will probably hold for a bit and then I will spend a weekend grinding nothing but that activity so I can get the weapon.

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With a new season, comes a new set of cash shop engrams… and throughout the night last night I unlocked four of these…  one of which happening to give me this sweet Ghostrider themed sparrow.  I also pulled an exotic ship that is themed after Warmind/SIVA but it isn’t anywhere near as cool looking.  This however immediately became my new main sparrow as I ride around on flaming nonsense.  All it is missing is a bunch of skulls.  I really like the Scorn as a faction, and I love how all of their tech seems even more improvised than even that of the Fallen.  All in all it was a good night and a largely quiet one as I slowly whittled away at collecting powerful and prime engrams.  I have finally reached the point where I am pretty regularly getting 600 light items…  so my hope is in the next few days to be able to hit that item cap before Black Armory bumps it up by 50 again.  It really is a great time to be playing Destiny 2.

If you prefer to consume this information from a Bungie Vidoc… they also have you taken care of as a nice one released yesterday attempting to differentiate between the content players will be getting for free and the content locked behind the Annual Pass.

Powerleveling Gun

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Last night I did not join in FFXIV Eureka shenanigans, largely because I was not feeling terribly sociable.  This is was and will probably continue to be a trying week, as is often the case when we come back from a significant break.  In my case I was out five days, and while I spent a good chunk of the first day at the hospital…  it was still enough time to get thoroughly out of the habit of going to work on a regular basis.  Instead I spent my night roaming around in Destiny 2 and doing puttering sort of activities, in part because I had knocked down the vast majority of the major stuff over the weekend.  The thing I did not realize however is that yesterday was also the final day of the season, and I am a little bummed out that this was apparently the first season that Greysky Armada will not have maxed out guild rank… and will not be earning the banner pole.  I myself have done next to nothing to contribute to this, so in the grand scheme of things I am okay with this… just a little sad.

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Instead of doing things on my Titan main, I opted to instead piddle around on my Hunter who has not really been dusted off since the launch of Curse of Osiris.  It is really weird to have the start of three different content blocks…  Curse of Osiris, Warmind, and Forsaken all on the director map.  I play this game incorrectly… and what I mean by that is my preference is to level to the new numerical cap before starting any of the story driven content.  My thought process is something like this…  if I grind the levels on something like strikes or heroic public events… I can use the story as a light leveling experience, meaning anything I happen to get along the way is actually useful gear instead of something that I immediately relegate to the shard bin.  This may or may not be worthwhile but it is the pattern that I find myself falling into over and over again.

Traditionally I have focused on doing nothing but Titan public events, since by the time you down one of them there is often times another one just about to spawn on the other half of that relatively small map.  With the advent of planetary bounties, I have started focusing on those instead and knocking out a full round of the planets that I have access to.  Each time you turn in one of the bounties it appears to be a significant jump in experience and as a result I am sitting at level 37 out of 50…  and wondering if the Black Armory is going to bump up both Light Level cap and Level Cap.  Grinding in Destiny is my jam, and I find it extremely peaceful to roam around and knock out patrols and public events.

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This process has been bolstered by the fact that apparently the gun I ground for during the Halloween event, may not have a minimum level cap to equip or at least it is equipable at my lowest level which is 30.  I was swapping gear around through DIM…  and if you don’t know about Destiny Item Manager you should totally stop what you are doing and check it out.  Without really realizing what I was doing I swapped my 600 item level Horror Story over to my Hunter…  and it equipped without issue.  This means that immediately I started getting gear that is way higher than I probably should at the equivalent level.  Sure some of it isn’t necessarily usable due to level restrictions… but some of it is and as such this weapon that is an arguably worse version of the Origin Story…  serves as a light level booster.  Similarly I tried it out on my 289 Light Level Warlock… and once again I could equip it just fine.

With the opening of a brand new season….  I will likely be putting the Huntress to bed once again, however the sheer fact that I am interested in playing my alts tells you a lot about the improvement to the current state of Destiny 2.  When the PS4 version released I ground up all three of my classes to 305 light, and used them as a sort of spring board each week to help me level up my weapons…  which in turn then drug up the level of my armor.  With the PC release… I only had the oomph to get the three characters leveled… but never spent time gearing them other than the Titan.  I lost steam… and Curse of Osiris did not really help that, and at which point I seemingly became a player that only really played my main.  Now I am back in the mood to fiddle with the other classes and see what sorts of trouble I can get up to with them as well.  Essentially the desire to play is greater once more than the total package of content available to me on any one character…  which is saying an awful lot given that there are so many opportunities for Powerful/Prime engrams.

Like I have said before…  Destiny 2 is in its best state ever, and one that I feel probably rivals the state of Destiny 1 during Year 3 (and honestly the current state since it has largely been frozen in time).  If you have access to the game I highly suggest checking it out again.  If you have any questions or need help, feel free to holler at me through one of the many channels folks have to holler at me through.

 

Regularly Playing: Late November 2018

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One of the constants of Tales of the Aggronaut is my sheer inability to keep any form of a series going for any length of time.  There is a thing that I used to do semi-monthly where I trued up the regularly playing widget on my blog’s sidebar and talked a bit about the games that I have actually been playing.  I would talk about the things that I was adding to the list, the things that I was for whatever reason still playing… and then talked about the things I was removing from the list and a bit about why.  Unfortunately based on a quick search of my blog…  this is not something that I have done since August of 2017.  A lot has changed since then and a lot of games have come up and gone away, and quite frankly I am not sure how valid any sort of a comparison might be.  However I wanted to get this started again.  So from now on I expect to be updating these towards the end of the month rather than at the beginning of a new month.  I’ve also decided to start including the platform I am playing on, since in a few cases that actually does matter a lot.

Destiny 2 – PC

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I’ve been having a bit of a renaissance with Destiny 2 and I spent the vast majority of the weekend hanging out downstairs and playing it while remoted into my desktop upstairs.  My nonsense Parsec setup is amazing, and this really has become my default gameplay method most of the time.  I mean who doesn’t want to play sitting on the sofa, wrapped up in fuzzy blankets…  with two cats snuggling into them?  I got the Trinity Ghoul to drop after completing Ikora Rey’s bounty objective, and it is awesome…  unfortunately I will probably never actually use it.  The fact that we can only use one exotic weapon pretty much means that choice is always going to go to the Thunderlord.  If they introduce some legendary HMGs into the game again…  that decision might shift…  but for now it feels damned good to have access to one again.  For the most part I am spending my time knocking out various things that award Powerful/Prime engrams, and other than that I started leveling the Hunter last night while watching Walking Dead.  The game really is in the best state it has been in period… and I am probably counting all of the awesome stuff that was available during Year 3 of Destiny 1.  If you are not playing this game you owe it to yourself to check it out again.

Monster Hunter World – PC

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The other primary game that I am spending most of my time playing is Monster Hunter World on the PC.  This game is so much more enjoyable with a mouse and keyboard, and I have recently been grinding away for the Dante weapon and armor set that came in with the Devil May Cry cross over event.  I also had no clue how often I use the term grinding… until this weekend when a Chinese Cutting Wheel and Grinder company reached out to me to see if I wanted to do a paid product placement.  It is weird how things like that happen… how the  gaming sphere takes a perfectly normal and reasonable word and shifts it into something else.  I still have yet to get over the level 49 hump that is Tempered Kirin…  but I figure in the coming week I might start devoting some of my play time towards doing that.  I would really like to be uncapped again by the time the Winter Festival starts up, so that all of the time spent doing those events can bolster my hunting rank.  The highlight of the weekend was the Code Red match when three of us were using Kulve Taroth Paralysis weapons…  and it was shocking just how often we had the mob locked down tight…  even Teostra.

Final Fantasy XIV – PC

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Somewhat shocking to me… I am apparently back playing Final Fantasy XIV regularly after my extremely long absence?  The last update from August 2017 was just about when I started to peel away from Stormblood, because that was also the month that I played a significant amount of Guild Wars 2… enough to probably consider it my main game back then.  In the year and some change that has passed since that post… I really have not spent all that much time playing the game.  I came back a few times attempting to get caught up with the main story quest, only to stall out in this place or another.  However lately it has felt really good to roam around and play something like this, especially when paired with my more action oriented main squeezes of Destiny 2 and Monster Hunter World.  I can only take so much of that in a single setting and need to retreat back into something slower paced…  and for now at least hotbar combat works nicely for that.

Diablo 3 – Switch

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Another game that I have been enjoying the hell out of is Diablo 3 on the Nintendo Switch.  It is a really great platform for the game and I had never really given the console version any serious play prior to this.  My only gripe is the way it requires connectivity to play seasonal characters.  Essentially if you want to play these in a disconnected state, you need to have the forethought to start up a game before you leave the safety of WiFi… and then place your switch into Airplane Mode.  From there the game will allow you to continue playing your seasonal character, and eventually synchronize everything when you get connected once again.  This is somewhat maddening, but at least I have the ability to tether to my phone if for some reason I did not think ahead to do this thing before I left the house.  I am spending a lot of my “while trying to fall asleep” time playing Diablo 3.

Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee – Switch

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While I did not play much of it this weekend, I am still very much enthralled with Let’s Go Pokemon.  When I last played I had just beaten the third gym and was grinding my way towards the next one.  However when I get back into game I want to do some backtracking and train my Eevee with some of the silly named abilities that the mentor is offering.  Based on Ashgar’s suggestions, these are apparently really good moves.  This is the biggest problem that I have with Pokemon games in general, is that I never know what moves I should be allowing it to learn and what ones I should be ignoring.  As a result I tend to largely favor straight damage attacks and ignore the more fiddly nonsense of raising and lowering accuracy and such.  Pokemon is a game about collecting cute pets for me… and the combat nonsense is largely just something I have to deal with in order to collect said cute pets.

Fallout 76 – PC

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This game is still very much on the list but I have not devoted near enough time to it.  Largely this requires me to be upstairs… and since I have been spending most of my time downstairs it just isn’t getting played.  I’ve also been dealing with a lot of stress and that makes me turtle and avoid doing any manner of group activity that requires voice communication.  This is coupled with the fact that I don’t really have a great comms set up downstairs, and as a result simply avoid joining voice servers.  I could of course go into “listen only” mode but that doesn’t really work in situations where the in game chat is not amazing.  I did spend some time this weekend hanging out with Rae and walking her through the finer points of Monster Hunter World… or at least answering a bunch of the questions anyone has starting that game.  I know Tam, Kodra, Shiana and Waren have been having a massively fun time running around in a big group… and as cool as that sounds… I just can’t bring myself to be that interactive.  I am hoping when the private servers release that there will be a second awakening of this game and I can hop on the bandwagon at that point.  In the meantime however I am playing a very quiet and crafting-centric version of the game as I expand my nifty roadside base.

Hellgate London – PC (Steam)

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As generally “not good” as the Steam version of this game is…  I find myself still regularly booting it up and playing around with it.  I did however dig out my copy of Hellgate London on DVD, and plan on going through the nonsense to install it and get set up to use the London 2038 emulator servers to see just how well that version of the game plays.  In the mean time however… it is still Hellgate London,  no matter how cludgy it might be and I love this game.  I am guessing this would be on my list of guilty pleasure games that no one else really understands…  like Vagrant Story…  or Simon’s Quest.  Remember kids…  Excessive game play may affect your lifestyle.

Dragalia Lost – Android

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While this is not necessarily an every day thing anymore… I am still very much playing Dragalia Lost on a regular basis.  At this very moment there is a special summon event going on, and I seem to have missed the guaranteed five star adventurer summon…  and currently it is a wyrmprint.  No one gives a shit about wyrmprints…  so I will wait to use mine until the five star dragons kick in at the end of the cycle.  The current event is somewhat enjoyable, but I do greatly prefer the cycles where we have a raid open and a new character that we can gain faction with.  So far it seems to alternate back and forth between kill a boss and get bonus loot…  and earn a new character and do a raid.  Since this is a wind event and that tends to be the crew that is the least used overall… I am using it to work up their levels and have largely coalesced on using Melody the Samurai Maid as my main for the event.  Admittedly I mostly like her because it reminds me of my friend PizzaMaid… only because she is a maid that kicks lots of ass as well.

Pokemon Go – Android

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With the connectivity between Let’s Go and Pokemon Go… it has also spurred me to be a lot more active in this game as well.  I don’t have an awful lot to say about it other than the fact that I am regularly checking what “Mons” might be around when I am out about in the world.  The fact that I got a Google Wear watch has also increased this experience because I am now getting credit via Google Fit for the time when I don’t have the app open.  As a result I am hatching a lot more eggs than I did previously, since it seemed inconvenient to keep the app open all of the time.  Mobile games are generally a massive drain on the battery, and none are harder on it than Dragalia and Pokemon Go… so as a result I tend to play them sparingly when I am at fear of running down my battery and without a way to charge it again.

Walking Dead Our World – Android

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This game is barely holding in there and since being punted from the clan I was in…  a lot of my reason for playing on a nightly basis has disappeared.  It was enjoyable to feel like my little bits of play were adding up to larger objectives, but without that incentive…  I am just not motivated to play that often.  The game has a problem of not making it really reasonable to acquire better characters or weapons.  99.9% of the activities you do will give you white cards, which might as well go straight into the dumpster.  The only things worth using really are purple or orange the highest tiers, and they have tied a number of objectives to doing things with specific legendary weapons making it really hard to knock those out each week.  They really want you to spend money on the game, and I feel like I am just not getting enough joy out of the game to do so.  I’ve lucked my way into a few items and they were running a special where Legendary Morgan and Rick were super cheap to purchase with one of the in game grindable currencies.  I fully expect however that by the time I do my next update this game will be on the outs.

There are other games that I might boot up here or there but for the most part this is the crux of games that I am playing regularly as the title of the post suggests.  What are you my wonderful readers playing lately?

 

 

Thanksgiving Ramble

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This morning’s post is going to be fairly rambly…  so just letting my brain go where it takes me.

For anyone who might be curious, as far as we can tell everything went well yesterday.  Mother-in-law made it through the biopsy just fine and while she was a little out of it from the after effects of the anesthesia, but someone hung out with her last night to make sure all was right.  We expect to see her today, but so far everything seems okay. The doctor made a comment that it did not look cancerous, but it will be awhile before we hear anything official back. However I want to thank everyone that reached out to me about it yesterday, I greatly appreciate it.

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For those of us in the United States it is Thanksgiving, which in itself is a holiday with a shady past.  However I do like the general concept of taking a day out to spend time with those you care about, share a nice meal, and remember all of those things that you are thankful for.  A few years back I did this thing that I called a Month of Thankfulness, and tacked a paragraph or two onto the tail end of my blog post every morning. I had all intention of rebooting it this year, but as November 1st ticked around…  It just did not happen. Given how busy and frustrating this month has been for me personally… it was probably a good idea.

Firstly I want to say that I am exceedingly blessed or lucky depending upon your point of view.  I am constantly humbled by the fact that I got where I am today because of the help of countless individuals along the way who gave me the time of day and decided to take an interest in me as a human being.  I’m not a very competitive individual, and I think I am proof that you don’t necessarily have to be to get ahead in the world. In fact I think collaboration and helping others is just as valid a means of forward momentum…  as trampling others with your ambition.

That said I also feel like it is my responsibility to help out others as much as I can.  Leading guilds and building communities was always my way of making this happen, and more recently that skill set has been applied to managing a team of fifteen individuals with all of their different needs.  This is one of those moments where I wish gaming were more accepted, but as someone in management… I can tell you that everything you learn as a guild and raid leader is completely applicable to leading individuals in the workplace.  Getting folks to band together to kill an imaginary monster is no less valid than trying to get them to finish a project by the deadline.

I’m very lucky that I have a partner in this journey that while she may not be into all of the things that I am…  still considers them completely valid. She has her things and I support her in them, and she supports me in mine.  I am also very lucky in that we have a comfortable life where we can both be doing our own things at the same time… but also feel like we are spending time together.  That interaction though can easily transition into one of our many jaunts out into the world to go wandering and looking for interesting things. We’ve been together for over two decades at this point, and I cannot fathom existing without my navigator.

I am also extremely thankful to the AggroChat podcast crew and the assorted friends of the podcast we have gathered over the years.  This group has become a family that I care about deeply, and even if we don’t happen to be playing the same game at the same time… is a place that I can easily settle into and that accepts me for my transient ways.  While I have struggled at times with the constraints of recording a weekly podcast, there is no group of people I would rather be doing it with. I love all of my co-hosts so much, and if tomorrow we decided to stop it all…  none of that would change.

I am extremely thankful to the folks who hang around and comment on my blog and who make up the greater blogging community that participate in events like Blaugust.  You are all an inspiration to me each time I venture and and visit your blogs. The fact that I have a community is a good part of the reason why I keep talking. So often when you have a blog it feels like you are shouting into the void, and while I honestly find it easier to write like I am talking to myself… it is nice knowing that there is actually someone out there.  We’ve shared so many events through this blog, and as I have said so many things… it is part confession, part exposition and part therapy. Thanks for being willing to keep reading my nonsense.

I think one of the hallmarks of my generation… is the fact that we have very permeable lines as to what constitutes family.  For my mom, it is very much a case of blood is stronger than anything else, but weirdly I never latched onto that notion. I consider anyone who I care about and who is there for me… to be family.  The news has been making a big deal about “Friendsgiving” this year, but in truth I would never refer to it as such. My friends are just as much my family as the one I was born into.

Maybe it is a side effect of not really having ever seen eye to eye with much of my family, or the fact that as my grandparents passed away… all of those formal holiday structures faded with them.  Today I am going to be spending time with an assemblage of my parents and friends of the family, and it feels no less valid to me personally than we used to have to squeeze twenty people around a dining room table that only got the leaves put it in once a year.  It will be a blend of my family, my wife’s family, and a few people that we wanted to make sure had a gathering to go to. The thing is… I think the most important part of Thanksgiving is the symbolic act of sharing a meal with the ones you love.

I am going to go ahead and wrap this post up because otherwise I will have written another four page epic… that on one actually wants to read.  I hope all of you out there have a very Happy Thanksgiving… and even if you are not in the United States… take some time over the next few days to share a meal with some of the people that are important to you in life.  That is the root of why I care about Thanksgiving, and it is that moment and tradition that I am thankful for among so many other things.

 

Lurk Longsword

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This morning is a little bit odd given that I am not at work, but also had to get up at 5:30 like normal.  I guess I technically didn’t but I still have things that need to get done.  My mother in law is going into the hospital today for a lung biopsy, so I would greatly appreciate any thoughts, prayers or just general good vibes channeled her direction.  Our hope is of course that it isn’t anything serious, but just the act of taking a biopsy from your lungs is fairly serious.  A few days ago I wrote about how hardcore mobile gamers can be, and I guess further evidence proves that even more true.  Yesterday I booted up Walking Dead Our World while waiting on a meeting just to check and see what objectives I should be focused on… and found that I had been kicked from the group that I wrote about.  It seems as thought a group leader can see various stats about the players, and it appears that it is common place to purge anyone not killing at least 200 walkers a day.

I am WAY more casual than that… and I had apparently somehow avoided notice for a few weeks before the hammer dropped down upon me.  I don’t even really know the people in the clan, but it was surprising how much it generally bummed me out.  I’ve since joined another group, but I have to say…  the drive to play is largely gone.  Previously I felt like I was working towards something with a bunch of other players, but now I mostly just don’t care as I have to get acclimatized to another group of randos.  I’ve contemplated forming my own group and calling it something along the lines as “Casual AF” and just seeing what sort of players I get to join.  The clan size is limited to 25 players, so if you are in a group of high achievers I totally get why they might want to punt casuals.  The objectives are things like kill 300 armored walkers with a specific character, and in a given encounter you might come across two of them…  meaning at that rate you would have to take out 150 of these randomly occurring encounters to get the objective.  The game is balanced for hardcore players, so also maybe not balanced for me personally.  It was interesting while it lasted.

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One of the things I love about the Kulve Taroth event is the random weapons that you end up walking away with.  Generally speaking there are a few gems scattered in amongst the dross… and one of them is this longsword.  The base damage is a little low, but it makes up for it in the utility of having a longsword with fairly reasonable paralysis on it.  Ultimately I have been using this a lot as I have been taking on the Devil May Cry event quest where you fight four different monsters, and this ends up giving a fairly early proc of paralysis to help out the burn phase.  It also works shockingly well on Kulve Taroth itself, which is goofy given how damned big that is to see it paralyzed.  It does allow for a lot of good burn time whenever it happens which makes me heavily favor the weapon, and if I shifted out my item build a bit I could get quite a bit of white sharpness on it.

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I also spent a good deal of time last night playing Final Fantasy XIV and managed to get off high center in the quest chain.  There was a very specific quest that I was struggling with, that involved killing a bunch of mech suits that cast self destruct.  This stupid thing took me roughly four attempts to finally get through it, and is one of those fights where the NPCs are vulnerable to death… and if they die you instant fail.  I finally figured out exactly what I was supposed to be doing and on the last attempt it felt way less arbitrary.  I will say this is one of the frustrations at times with Final Fantasy XIV…  is that for all of the really good visual messaging… there are at times in the solo quests that they don’t give you much of an explanation of what you are supposed to be doing.  My hope however is that this gets me unstuck and I can continue questing my way through all of the Main Story Quest content that I had missed.

Tiny Samurai vs Eureka

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One of the things that happened over the weekend that we did not talk about on the podcast, nor have I mentioned on the blog… was the reveal of the next Final Fantasy XIV expansion Shadowbringers at the Las Vegas Fan Fest.  I mentioned Fan Fest when I was talking about BlizzCon and how they only hold one when they have a big announcement to give us information about.  As such you go into the experiencing knowing you are going to see something really cool, and while the trailer for Shadowbringers is cool… it was not the big reveal of the weekend.  That said I do find it interesting that we are not going where I thought we were going at various points in the Stormblood storyline.  It seems like in order to restore balance… we are to become the Warrior of Darkness.

The more important reveal however was that of the Blue Mage… aka the MMO class that I questioned if was even possible to do in a multiplayer game.  With it they are introducing this concept of “Limited Jobs” and by that they mean Jobs that you can do… but are purely solo/open world only.  Blue Mage will launch with 4.5 and be locked to a maximum of level 50 in progression.  Like a Blue Mage in any other Final Fantasy game, you will not learn new skills by leveling up and instead learn them by fighting the monsters that perform certain abilities.  So to learn Bad Breath you will need to fight a Morbal and watch it do that move…  or similarly you will need to watch a Sabotender do 1000 Needles to be able to pick it up and start doing it yourself.  I really dig this concept because it allows them to do this class with all of its flavor and power… without having to worry about balancing it against any other class.  Level 5 Death would have been super hard to balance around… and I am wondering if they will start bringing other challenging classes in to the game under this Limited Jobs banner.

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All of this thought about Final Fantasy XIV lead me to patch it up, and attempt to figure out where the hell I left off in the Stormblood post expansion main story quest.  I bounced very hard on Stormblood and I am still not entirely certain why, but after leveling the Warrior and then grinding up the Samurai… I just ran out of steam.  I’ve made a few attempts to get engaged again and similarly bounced out.  Hell recently there have been a few times I logged into the game and then right back out when I wasn’t exactly sure what I needed to do in order to gain traction.  All of this time however Sol has kept Greysky Armada active and there is a group of folks that do a cycle of regular events.  Last night was Eureka night and I decided to log in and join the shenanigans.

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Ultimately it was myself, Mor, eventually Neph and a character that I have seen around but can’t really place a person to…  being babysit by Pix who deserves a hero medal for easing us all into the concept of Eureka.  I remember when this first opened I spent some time solo grinding and managed to make it to level 2 just by killing random stuff.  It seemed insanely grindy and a love song to Final Fantasy XI which itself was effectively the Japanese version of Everquest.  Soloing it was miserable but with a group of friends it felt an awful lot better.  Even more so once we started gathering up the materia shards that effectively gave us a 60% damage boost.  I entered the night at level 2 and managed to push through to level 8 before we finally called it because it was getting late.

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Seriously Pix deserves massive thanks at herding us around Eureka and helping us get the objectives we needed to get knocked out.  Effectively he was out of group and AOE taunting everything onto him… while we sat there killing it down as fast as possible.  As a result I spent most of the night as Samurai and while it took me a bit to remember how to play the class it eventually came back.  When Neph joined us I feel like she went through the same thing with Machinist… which I guess is to be expected for as long as we have been gone.  I know they have other themed nights, like one in which they do crafting maps…  so for the time being I am probably going to be logging in and doing those activities at least until I get my bearings.  I had an awful lot of fun, and I most of it was due to the fact that I was getting to hang out with a bunch of friends that I had not hung out with in a really long time.

Let’s Go Thoughts

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Without really intending to… this weekend became largely about Let’s Go Pokemon, the new Pokemon game that released on the Nintendo Switch Friday.  I went with Eevee, because quite honestly it is one of my favorite Pokemon largely for the sheer versatility that is available in the evolved forms.  The starter Eevee however will be permanently locked in its adorable pupa stage, and I am mostly okay with that…  as it keeps me from having to try and figure out which way I want to evolve my Pokemon.  I decided to give my Eevee the super adult name of Wigglebum.

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Similarly I decided to give my rival the super adult name of Buttface, because in most of the other Pokemon games that I have played… they turn out to be a dick.  Unfortunately this one is rather awesome, and constantly cheering us on and giving us free stuff.  Now I feel sorta bad when I am in a cutscene with the two of us…  and I see the monaker that I unfairly bestowed upon them.  Blue however is around to play the role of the butthead, but even he seems better behaved than I remember him…  or in my case it was Red that was the Butt since I played Pokemon Blue not Red.

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A few days ago my friend Hestiah posted a thread where she commented on a few of the Pokemon Go names that she came up as she caught them.  This made me realize how generally boring I am when it comes to catching Pokemon, in that I never actually give them names.  Maybe it feels better when I send them back to the professor to grind into candy if I didn’t name them in the first place. Ultimately she is the one who inspired all of this serious adulting… and has trickled down to the individual Pokemon as well.  ZappyGirl started her life as ShockyRat, and then I decided to name her based on the whole Zappy Boi  meme…  and thankfully this game lets you rename your charges whenever the hell you want to.

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The interesting thing about Let’s Go as a game is that it seems way the hell more sticky for me personally than any other Pokemon game to date.  The truth is I don’t really like Pokemon combat, and it always felt weird to be beating up on random woodland creatures.  In this game it has adopted a Pokemon Go sort of approach where the individual Pokemon appear and you walk over to them to engage in a capture session… where you have all of the same tools as you do in the handheld game.  If you are playing in handheld mode you simply center the screen on the pokemon and throw the ball…  if you are playing docked you have to do some motion controlling nonsense with a dettached joycon in order to capture.  I am super disappointed that I could not play with my Pro Controller and just mimic the same behavior I do in handheld mode…  as such I am largely playing this game undocked which sorta makes me a little sad.

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Traditional combat still exists and is reserved for dueling other trainers, which feels a little better than kicking the ass of every random pidgey that happens across your path while roaming between two areas.  Wigglebum however is a soul less killing machine and gives zero fucks about beating up her kin.  She believes in Highlander rules… and there can be only one Eevee.  The interesting thing about random trainer battles is just how insanely lucrative they are, and the fact that apparently you never really need to buy Pokeballs in this game?  Most battles reward anywhere between 3 and 5 Pokeballs… and have just started paying out in Great Balls helping me keep in stock of those as well.  When I am playing in motion control mode I fail an awful lot so I am guessing they are paying out to help stop the frustration of Nintendo and their determination to make me do stupid shit with my hands while playing their games.

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The game feels extremely good and while it is mimicking Red and Blue… that doesn’t somehow ruin my experience because I have not played either of those since 1999/2000ish on a Gameboy Emulator?  This is mostly a fresh experience to me and while it seems really familiar… I can largely chock it up to the fact that ALL Pokemon games feel somewhat familiar.  I spent just shy of 9

hours over the weekend playing Pokemon Let’s Go, and while that might not sound like a ton of time… it is for me when it comes to a Pokemon game.  I tend to bounce off of them pretty fast, and this time I just kept playing…  until my switch battery ran out… and then went upstairs to dock it and try playing some more.

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I am not terribly far progressed, but at this point I have made it through three Gyms and quite honestly the only one I had any issues with was Misty and the Water type gym.  The only real problem there was Starmie and its inexplicable fire type moves???  I limped through it, but I had to take two runs at getting through her.  Surge and Brock were both easy as hell and largely fell over when I attacked them.  There are a bunch of weird moves that you can teach your starter, and according to Ashgar…  while they have horrible names they are actually really good.  So I might make my way back to that NPC and try a few of them.  So far Doublekick and Tackle have been my money attacks… and everything else seems to largely be expendable.

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Ultimately the game is super charming and if you like the concept of Pokemon, but maybe struggled a bit to get into it…  I highly suggest you check this game out.  If you are a Pokemon purist, some of the changes might frustrate you… but then again it is a Pokemon game so admit it… you are probably going to play it anyways.  I’ve linked my Pokemon Go account but have not made it to the area of the game where it allows you to swap stuff back and forth.  Last night Ash and I were going to try trading some stuff, but I ultimately fell asleep…  so I will try and catch up with him tonight and do that thing.  All in all… super fun game and my wife was shocked to see me playing it instead of something with more death, gore and dismemberment.  There is still a time for childlike wonder in the Tales of the Aggronaut.

If you are so inclined… we also talk quite a bit about the game on the podcast this weekend.

Hellgate Disappointment

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If you have read my blog for any length of time you will know that I have a hot burning and undying love of the game Hellgate London.  I played it originally at launch and was of the few suckers who actually ponied up for the subscription plan as well, with its extra events.  There were a whole slew of us that were playing World of Warcraft at the time, that took a break and started playing Hellgate as effectively our primary game.  There was in fact a House Stalwart guild in game that was pretty damned active for awhile…  but sadly a very short while.  The game released on October 31st or 2007, and in 2008…  Flagship Studios filed for bankrupt protection and all assets including the intellectual property of the games they were working on… were seized by Comerica bank.  Namco Bandai kept the servers going through January 31st of 2009 and after that point it was effectively a single player only game.  The assets were eventually sold to T3Fun/HanbitSoft a South Korean game developer who took the unreleased assets and spun up a few new areas of the game centered around Seoul.

In 2014 the game showed up on Steam as Hellgate Global which was being run by a HanbitSoft Connected company called T3Fun/Redbana Corporation.  Hellgate Global was an MMOized version of the game and featured a number of micro-transactions that added some “pay for qualify of life” type features like an item that would identify all of the items in your inventory instead of having to do them one at a time.  Similarly there was an item that would deconstruct every item in your inventory at the same time.  I actually played this game for a bit, and noticed that the difficulty was massively watered down and these mini bosses were added in every so often that served as a loot pinata.  It was entertaining but also nowhere nears a compelling as the original game, and it eventually shut down in January of 2016.  Recently Hellgate once again showed up on Steam as a game that was coming November 15th… and last night I purchased it for myself and a couple of Aggrochat members.  One to grief him because I sincerely doubt he will like the game, but he also once gifted me a copy of Bad Rats.  The other however because I think she will absolutely like the game…  that is if she can get past the frustrations with this version.

My hope was this would be an easy way to get people in and let them experience Hellgate London.  Previously the best way to play Hellgate London was to either Amazon or Ebay a copy of the old game and then install Hellgate Revival to bring it up to more modern standards.  There is even a side project called London 2038 that acts as a server emulator, allowing you to play online with others and restoring much of the functionality of the game.  My hope was the Steam version would bring a lot of these improvements to the game and make it as easy as purchasing and installing to get in and play.  Unfortunately after last night…  the route I just described is still the best way to play the game.

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First of all we have to talk about how HanbitSoft has seemingly changed the story of Hellgate London, by introducing a some equally questionable animation tacked onto the front of what is still the most epic intro sequence from any game.  The original game is largely the story of Doom… rifts from hell open up and a bunch of demons flow into our world and decimate it.  They however shifted it to be a battle between the light and the dark in ambiguous terms, that maybe work better for a South Korean audience than the biblical hell on earth story of the original.  The other big problem is that seemingly this is a game that was taken from the original English…  localized into Korean…  and then has now been localized back into English.  We’ve all seen the memes of what happens when you pass something through google translate too many times… in fact my favorite is a twitter account called Rosewatta Stone that does that with Magic the Gathering cards.

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There is an awful lot of jank going on with this game, from the completely unskippable tutorial sequence that keeps popping up how to do everything… and then will freeze your character in place until you perform whatever the hell they are asking you to do.  To the fact that the textures are extremely muddy and are way lower resolution in a few of the areas than the base install of the original game.  Hellgate London was a game with a bunch of different tile sets for lack of a better term, and they were constructed out of a series of themed prefabs…  and this one in particular seems to have fared the worst which is the cityscape with rubble strewn through it.  Others like the train station tileset, seem to have gotten a much higher resolution texture treatment and as such look significantly better.  The problem is however that this experience feels extremely uneven…  like they got bored while working on the game and only focused on the areas that they liked the most.

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This is effectively the same version that was released as Hellgate Global from what I can tell, and as such it includes a handful of classes that were not available in the original release.  I am however a creature of habit and wound up rolling a Guardian again… which is the class I always tend to play when I play Hellgate.  I am a sword and shield tank, but again you can see the unbalanced nature of the textures.  That shield looks perfectly fine… the armor however is blurry and washed out.  It also has the weird intro sequence where it places you in what used to be the cash shop hub of the game, before sending you to your first destination.  None of the cash shop vendors still exist, but that was effectively a player lobby that allowed groups to gather up, and it seems like there is no real way to get back there once you have started actually playing the game.  It definitely comes off as them quickly singlerplayer-izing what was designed to be a rudimentary MMO cash grab.

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The thing that cracks me up the most is the inclusion of the Korean warnings about play time.  After paying an hour you get the following message to pop up in the chat window “You have been playing for 1hour.  Excessive game play may affect your lifestyle.”  This is one of those loot pinata bosses that I talked about, and when you kill them you get a fountain of loot most of it blue or higher quality to come pouring out.  All of this aside the game was largely playable once you got past that forced intro section.  That is until I started encountering some more serious issues with the game.  Shortly after the hour mark I started encountering some massive slowdowns, and at first I thought maybe there was a memory leak in the client.  However upon restarting the game and getting into a fight the same things started happening again.  I think this might be an issue with one specific spell effect from a specific type of monster, which are the the demons that crawl around and then throw fireballs at you.  The moment one of these sends this spell effect in your direction my framerate bottomed out.  This is coming from me playing on an i7-5820k with a Geforce 1080 ti…  so more processing power than this game ever dreamed about having initially.  I finally had to stop playing last night because it was impossible to do anything…  because I kept hitting these framerate walls.

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Ultimately I still love Hellgate London and I happily played for about two hours until I encountered the issues.  I was hoping that the Steam release would have actually had some effort put into it, but unfortunately that is not the case.  The positive side is that right now it is selling for a little less than $10, so it isn’t like even with the three copies that I bought I am out a significant amount of money.   I am hoping that the modding community decides to fix these issues, because it is probably something as simple as the fact that the game inexplicably dropped Direct X 10 support and is only allowing Direct X 9 for some reason.  If you really want to play Hellgate London, you are still better off digging up an original copy…  installing Hellgate Revival and then using London 2038 to play on the multiplayer servers.  I have a feeling in the coming days I will be doing this thing again just to see how different the experience is.

I hope that HanbitSoft will patch the game to make the experience less frustrating, because I still would love to see the Seoul levels as well as the Hellgate Tokyo content that supposedly was added in to the game as well.  I am not however holding my breath that any of that is going to happen, and more than likely this was just a quick cash grab that I got suckered into by my love of this franchise, and the nostalgia of all that it could have been.  I’ve spent thirty bucks on dumber things, so in the end I will be just fine.