Anthem Friend Exchange

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Well here we are… it is officially the day that Anthem launches…  and by launches I mean if you paid a bunch of money you can get access to the game today.  I know several of us did this thing ahead of purchasing the PC version, because in doing so it gives you a discount off the game purchase price in the first place.  The only problem is things are way murkier than they have been in the past.  There are now two tiers of Origin Access…  the $5 a month basic customers and the $15 a month customers.  We are now in an era when you need a spreadsheet to explain when exactly you get to play the damned game.  EA support of course did this thing…  and while I am grousing about it I do not necessarily blame Bioware for this apart from the fact that they allowed themselves to get bought years ago.

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So if you are dumb like me and went ahead and ponied up for a month or two of Premier…  then you can start playing Anthem legitimately today at 9 am Central Standard Time.  I will unfortunately be at work and given that we have freezing rain going on outside I have no clue what my commute is going to look like.  As such I will probably get a super late start tonight and am hoping the servers are stable by the time I actually get home.  If you have Origin Access basic… aka the $5 a month that used to be the only thing that was available…  you get to play a 10 hour head start.  Something of note…  if you are in this camp Origin loves to not fully close games.  I had this happen to me with Andromeda and saw all of my hours tick away while I slept.  Make sure the executable for Anthem is good and dead in Task Manager to prevent this from happening to you.

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For everyone else…  you get to start playing next Friday, which is kinda screwed up that the folks who are paying the $15 premium are going to get one full weeks worth of game before the folks who simply ordered the game.  This is a frustrating situation and I am weak as fuck for playing into the “buying early access” game model.  The real question is… I have no clue what this is going to do to the grouping dynamic and how far of a gap between characters is completely reasonable.  We didn’t really pay attention to levels during the demo but wound up largely within a level or two of each other given the very limited range that was possible.  We all mostly capped out at 15 by the end, and while I think we pulled in someone who was around 10…  it wasn’t really a noticeable issue.

I am hoping it will be simple to help pull players up and do group content together regardless of the level gap.  This gets into the other major problem with Anthem…  there is no guild/clan system going in at launch.  This combined with how dodgy the Origin client is in general has made me contemplate some sort of alternate way of collecting people who are going to be playing and also occasionally available for grouping.  As such I set up a google sheet this morning to start collecting Origin account information.  Because I didn’t think of a better way to handle this…  there are two parts to the system…  the Sign Up Form and The Roster sheet.  I will be manually copying entries from the Form over to the Sheet… which is honestly the only way I could think to do this without either manually sharing out the Roster or giving everyone Edit access which would go horribly wrong.

Why would I do this thing you ask?  Well it is simple…  Origin is this walled garden disconnected from the other various gaming networks.  It for whatever reason does not seem to understand that we want to group up with people we might know from other platforms and as such has no way of importing users or getting suggestions from other platforms.  There is no twitter or facebook integration, and most certainly nothing like the Steam integration that Epic Games Store has.  So you are stuck trading ids with people on a one by one basis and I figured something like this… would allow a large number of us to catch up in one pass and turn the friends list in Origin into something that is actually useful.  Right now at the time of posting the sheet only has my information but I will be updating it throughout the day and keep posting new names at least once daily after that.

So to summarize:

Hopefully this smooths out the bumps given that this is a bit of a new venture into MMO territory for the Origin client given there was no integration between Origin and SWTOR.  If you think this is a really dumb idea, then I am more than willing to accept those comments.  If you think it is a good idea however…  fill out your info and lets get ready to fly some mech suits!

Assorted Blizzard Topic

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This morning I am going to apologize to anyone who actively reads either my Twitter feed or my Fediverse feed.  Those tend to be the platform where I make extemporaneous commentary and in the moment reactions to whatever happens to be on my mind.  Often time those statements end up getting distilled down into a blog post once more time and distance has passed.  Yesterday I spouted off in thread form on Twitter about the Activision/Blizzard layoffs and this morning I still feel the need to talk about it so I am cobbling together something in blog post form.  For those who have not been following this story it has been something looming on the horizon for awhile as Blizzard had gone into cost cutting measures and offered a number of employees buyout packages to voluntarily leave the company.  So these actions are something we had all been fearing would be happening, especially after the massive stock hit that came with the announcement of Bungie’s departure from the agreement with the publisher.

For those who have not been following this…  it was not a great year for Activision Blizzard as a whole in the public opinion area, however this did not stop them from making record profits this past year.  In 2017 they had a net profit of $273 million and in 2018 they realized a record $1.8 billion dollars in profit.  This is what makes the 800 layoffs feel all the more like “Snidely Whiplash tying Nell to the railroad tracks” evil.  I’ve not been able to verify as of yet who is and is not effected from the folks that I knew who were still working for Blizzard.  However among my circle of friends a good number of those friends of friends got the axe.  This whole sequence has been extremely frustrating and depressing to see play out on social media as so many people are scrambling to find a home in another studio.  Based on a few examples told to me in confidence, it appears that a good chunk will be trying to make their exit from games development in general for sake of stability.

There is a medium article that came out yesterday from Patrick Beja that is worth reading that goes over his thoughts about the whole situation and summarizes some statements that he had made earlier in the lead up.  There are a couple of specific sections that struck a chord with me, but I call one out in particular.

The other thing I often hear is “they’re only developing F2P mobile games that SUCK”. First, we don’t know they’ll suck. And second, I don’t know why they’d stop developing PC games that make money. Did you not enjoy Overwatch or Hearthstone or Heroes of the Storm? If you didn’t, you haven’t liked Blizzard for a long time… But if you did, maybe you’ll think the next PC games they release will be good too.

This was something that was hard to hear because since the release of Starcraft Blizzard has been a company that I held up on a pedestal as being quite possibly the ultimate end goal of what working in the games industry could be like.  I have obsessed over so many over their games and loved the artistry and craftsmanship that went into them.  However seeing that statement in print made a point ring true.  I love the Blizzard of the past and not necessarily the Blizzard of the here and now.  Now we are not talking about expansion content here…  but the last new game that they released that I have really enjoyed on a large level was Diablo 3 from 2012.  That means that for the last seven years they have not produced something that really interested me.  While I have rabidly eaten up every bit of expansion content for Diablo 3…  World of Warcraft and I have a much spottier record with liking some expansions like Legion and largely loathing some expansions like Cataclysm.  Effectively though…  I didn’t so much love Blizzard but instead loved those two games.

To preface some of what I have said in thread form…  Overwatch is a universe that I really like but with a game attached to it that I have no real interest in playing.  Hearthstone was a game I was interested in and dabbled with occasionally… but all of that interest died the moment I got my hands on MTG Arena and got what I had wanted all along.  Heroes of the Storm academically is a better game for me than League of Legends…  but I don’t really like either enough to play them on a regular basis and I have no interest at all in solo queuing.  Battle for Azeroth was probably the thing that caused Blizzard the most damage in my eyes because it went in the opposite direction that I wanted the franchise to go.  Legion gave me hope of us moving towards a class based narrative and away from the big dumb red versus blue crap we have had forced upon us for years.  However the narrative felt hollow and the gameplay was not really interesting enough to keep me attached to it as everything felt like rehashed versions of things we had already seen in one form or another before.

Diablo is the franchise that Blizzard created that I probably care the most about, and the handling of the Immortal announcement stung.  I am actually looking forward to that game, because I think it will be something fun to play from bed while I drift off much like I do currently with Dragalia Lost.  However we are hungry for more core Diablo gameplay and every year I have waited with so much built up hope for the eventual announcement of Diablo 4 that never quite comes.  Now I am more or less tired of waiting and have redoubled my efforts to explore the various alternatives like Torchlight Frontiers, Pagan Online and games I already have access to like Grim Dawn.  I fully support the Diablo team because they caught a bullet that was not necessarily intended for them.  However that does not mean my personal goodwill and hopefulness did not take a hit.

The layoffs have really driven home how disconnected I have become from Blizzard games in general.  Right now the only thing in the Blizzard launcher that sees much in the way of playtime is Destiny 2, and it is one of those games in limbo since Bungie left the fold.  I made an attempt to start this season of Diablo 3 but for various reason I never really latched onto it and didn’t even make it a quarter of the way to the level cap.  I’ve not really played World of Warcraft since October, in spite of logging in one or twice in November…  and effectively logging right back out again.  Blizzard currently is not producing anything that is really exciting me, and I am finding that excitement in other places which is nothing terribly new to be honest.  I have always been a WoW Tourist over the years… where I would disappear for a few months but return eventually to keep playing.  That said however the longest that I have gone without playing the game since 2012 is a couple of four month long breaks.

Unless there is a drastic change in direction that makes significant effort to bury the hatchet of the dumb faction conflict storyline…  I am not sure if I will be back.  Battle for Azeroth is the first World of Warcraft expansion not to make the AggroChat Games of the Year show, and quite honestly it is the first expansion I regret pre-0ordering and playing.  The future of me and Blizzard largely hinges upon if they make good on giving me a Diablo game that I want, which is a sorta depressing thing to say.  One thing that I want to talk about at the end however is that I don’t blame anyone other than myself for this.  I think the workers at Blizzard need our support desperately right now, because it has to be a very scary time for those who survived this round of cuts.  For those who didn’t…  we need to do whatever we can to help them out during this transition.

That is a point that I have always made throughout the years is that even if I am struggling to like a company…  it has nothing to do with how I feel about its employees.  Everyone works their asses off to make the best damned game they can.  When we talk badly about their work, it often feels like a kick in the gut after they probably gave up so much of their own life to crunch through the release of that product.  I see you all out there and appreciate what you try your level best to provide me a fun entertainment experience.  I am always reluctant when I start criticizing something because I don’t want it to feel like I am kicking the poor folks who helped to build it.  Lets be honest… many of us had daydreams of working in the games industry.  However I saw early on that it was not exactly a path of stability and I went down a path that would give me that security blanket that I craved.  That does not however mean that I don’t respect the fuck out of everyone that is making these games for me…  and for people who are not my specific arrangement of tastes.

The take away from this post is not that Blizzard is bad because we have grown apart.  I just find it weird that I can say something like that and actually mean it.  I am however frustrated with the hell that is being unleashed upon the good people that make up the company.  If you ever need someone to talk to my DMs are open.

Multiplayer Conundrum

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Last night was a really weird night for me, where I spent a significant amount of time doing things OTHER than playing games.  I logged into Final Fantasy XIV pretty early but had the very annoying fight that I had been struggling with the night before ahead of me.  So I found myself alt tabbed out of Parsec and doing other things…  like watching a whole bunch of videos on YouTube.  Yesterday was one of those days where everything was stacked together so tightly that I felt like I was jumping from meeting to meeting without any real pauses between… and before I knew it was 5:30 and I felt like I had accomplished nothing.

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When I got home I fixed us some dinner and largely went into a vegetative state, and part of this was avoiding actually doing the thing that I logged into Final Fantasy XIV to do that night.  On some level I think I just couldn’t handle the failure that was inevitably going to happen.  However around 9 ish I finally started working on the quest and sure enough I failed the first attempt.  However on the second try I made it through to the Y’shtola phase…  which honestly seemed really hard to fail.  It was an interesting encounter but way the hell to long, and the margins for failure were way the hell to slim for a story quest.  I am however up to patch 4.5 which I believe is still the latest story content patch, and will likely begin that tonight.

The other day Pentapod/Dominoposted a twitter poll of sorts asking players why they prefer to play otherwise multiplayer games solo.  This is a bit of a loaded topic and I chimed into the thread with my own thoughts but never quite made them in a blog format.  The above twitter post includes the follow up that shows that the vast majority of the reasoning behind why…  is issues of player toxicity.  For me personally it is a bit more nuanced than that but toxicity is definitely a huge problem that keeps me away from any game where voice chat with strangers is forced or at least heavily suggested.

For me the issue comes from something that I have noticed over the years and have talked a bit about on this blog.  The more responsibility I have thrust upon me in the real world…  the less I want to be entangled with it in the virtual world.  When I was working thankless dead end jobs, I looked to World of Warcraft, the House Stalwart Guild and the then Duranub Raiding Company raid to provide me structure in my life and give me some semblance of control.  However as I moved jobs and arrived at a place where I was deeply appreciated… and as a result given more and more responsibility…  I found myself withdrawing significantly from guild leadership and even recently from raiding at all.

When I group with other players I feel responsible for not only myself but for the enjoyment of others.  I am just wired that way and I think it is in part why I have always leaned on tanking classes as my window into the virtual world.  However since January of last year I have had fifteen human beings relying on me every single day for their survival and job satisfaction at work…  I just cannot handle going home at night and taking on that responsibility for putting myself out there to organize things.  As a result I have found myself spending almost all of my time playing solo in MMORPGs or playing some truly single player gaming experience.  I traded that responsibility for others that I used to cherish in games…  for applying those same guild and raid leader skills to the workplace.

The end result however is frustrating because I have found myself withdrawing from even what I would consider the safest of places and instead erecting mental blocks against those activities that thrust me in with a bunch of other players.  I’ve found it extremely difficult to bring myself to queue as my Warrior main in FFXIV because I am just not sure if I can deal with having to feel responsible for the success or failure of an encounter.  The time-shift for the Seattle crew has also harmed this a bit, but there is a significant gathering of East and Central players in the Final Fantasy XIV free company that would be more than willing to do anything I ever wanted to do with me.

At some point I have to rip the band-aid off and get back into the swing of things.  However there are so many nights like last night where I allow myself to find alternate diversions.  I am looking forward to Anthem as some what of a clean start.  However I spent almost all of my time in the demo playing alone, either doing missions solo or roaming around aimlessly in free play.  However on the Anthem front… reminder that you can begin loading the game through Origin at Noon Central today.

 

Puppet Strings

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Yesterday was not an amazing day, but there are times you figure someone is out there pulling your puppet strings.  When I left the house I had intended to go get donuts for my team and then head into the office. However I failed to grab the drink I made for myself…  so I had on my brain that I needed to get a drink.  Where do I usually do that… QuikTrip, however for some reason I auto piloted my way to the busiest QuikTrip in town that I never go to in the morning because it has a ton of High School kids hanging out there.  So I go inside and get a drink and am maybe away from my car for five minutes… and when I come back out…  I insert the key into the ignition and nothing.  No sign of any electrical at all… and to make it worse the key will not remove from the ignition.

After doing some googling I realize that if the battery is completely dead the ignition sometimes holds onto the key for some reason as there is a servo that holds it in place.  Now something of note…  I’ve gone through three batteries in a little over six months.  The first battery made some semblance of sense because I figure it was the original to the vehicle.  The second battery…  well maybe it was just a lemon and it was under warranty so while it was a hassle and stranded me at this exact same QuikTrip in 20 degree weather…  it was on a weekend and manageable.  The third battery however…  we are getting into “there has to be a larger cause” territory.  Each time I have had the vehicle in the shop the electrical system tested out fine.

Yesterday instead of bringing it to the same place that I got all of the batteries swapped at… I brought it to the dealership hoping that maybe just maybe they would have more Chevy specific diagnostic information.  The best that they could come up with is that the battery cables were garaged on the end that connects to the vehicle not the battery.  So they swapped those out and swapped the battery that was not toast and I was on my way by mid day.   However it pretty much killed all of the first part of my day and nothing says fun like trying to attend conference calls from a busy car dealership lobby.

I am really hoping when I go out to turn my vehicle on this morning that everything just works.  They think they found the source of the problems but at this point I am just paranoid.  When I said that sometimes a puppet master is out there pulling the strings…  what I meant by that is had I not caught this in the morning I would have instead caught it after about 5:30 at night…  while my vehicle was in a downtown parking garage without an easy way to load it up and tow it.  We would have likely had to push it down and out of the garage to be able to tow it at all given there isn’t enough height clearance for a tow truck to get in there and back out with a vehicle on the trailer.

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As far as gaming goes…  I made an attempt at the quest I had been stalled out in Final Fantasy XIV but however didn’t realize there was just about to be a server reset.  As such I made it through the first part of the fight… only to find out there is a whole OTHER part of the fight where I play as Y’shtola.  The server rebooted and killed my connection shortly after starting that… which means I am going to have to restart the entire freaking quest line when I get back.  Were this another game I would have just tossed it in the bin and walked away from it, but I know I HAVE to get through this stupid quest to be able to participate in the upcoming expansion.  This is a dumb quest and Square should feel bad for putting something this painfully long in the MSQ.

Instead I finally landed on playing some Grim Dawn which I still think is probably my favorite Diablo 2 style game out there.  The story is nonsense and the questing system is obtuse… so quite honestly I just keep pushing forward until I get to the next rift which unlocks access to that region from the central hub.  Along the way I appear to be completing some quests as I take down monsters marked with a star over their head.  It is a mechanically fun game, but I can’t say any of the gearing options feel really inspired to me.  Sure it is sorta cool that you can have a gun, but I still wind up running around with a big two handed weapon, since my attack of choice is a big overhead smash that sends a shockwave along the ground.

Here is hoping that today is less messed up and that nothing out of the ordinary occurs.  It is also my hope that tonight I can return to that quest line and finally beat the damned thing so I can move on with my life.  Final Fantasy XIV is not really endearing itself to me right now, but I want to finish the story that I have missed.

The Will of the Moon

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This weekend was largely about me trying to recuperate from whatever crud I had on Friday.  I’m feeling better as a whole but still not feeling 100%.  I’ve referred to this weekend as a name brand beta, because when a company throws a special test that most of the world seems to be invited to it definitely comes off as more marketing ploy than actual test of the game infrastructure.  Overall the game performed flawlessly other than an apparent known memory leak bug, that I never quite encountered because I didn’t play longer than the requisite two or three hours that it takes to encounter it.  The missions that I ran were rather enjoyable, and I fully expect to at a minimum play through the story content and unlock all of that.  I make no guarantees about how long it will take me given that it took me a good two years before I reached maximum level in the original game.

I still question how well the game fits my play style, but at the moment I am looking at it for a purely single player experience given that I know going into it that none of the other AggroChat crew will be playing it.  They all for the most part bounced off of the original Division, and primarily for the bleak story beats.  I think the fact that we were effectively working for the various communities that we discover makes the flow of the story feel better.  However as Kodra pointed out on the podcast, it does leave us a question of why exactly we are still an agent if there is no organizational structure left?  I mostly view that trope as the lone lawman in the wild frontier sort of approach.  I will say the game improved massively after I turned off the HDR, given that I was only able to SEE the HDR effect upstairs in my office and not while playing remotely through parsec…  and as such it made everything extremely washed out and hard to pick out details.

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The game I spent the majority of Saturday playing was Assassin’s Creed Origins and I have reached a point where I am staring down the barrel of the ending.  However I am extremely frustrated by what appears to be the ending that is unfolding in front of me.  Now I have said for some time that my opinion is that when this game was originally planned the ultimately design was that you could play it as Bayek or as Aya since the two characters at least on some level are interchangeable and have the same reasons for engaging in the main story plot.  For sake of budget I assume they cut one character so that they would not have to animate two copies of everything, but the problem with this is…  that every time you are forced to play Aya it is like stepping foot into a level one character.

What I mean by that is through the course of the game you make a lot of stylistic decisions about what weapons you want to use and what talent points to sink into.  Then each time you are throw into playing Aya you are forced to return back to the character that lacks the ability to customize anything.  So spoilers time…  but I just went through a sequence where it appears that I am saying goodbye to my character Bayek…  aka the one that I have spent the last 40 levels customizing to be exactly the way I want him to be…  and being forced to do the ending of the game with Aya the level 1 blank slate.  This makes me really not want to do any of the ending and just call it good enough… returning to playing through the fun part of the game which is doing random quests out in the world.  Maybe this isn’t exactly what is about to happen… but it certainly seems like I am just about to be forced into beating the game as a proxy.  Please note… I like Aya as a character and would have been fine playing her…  if I could actually control what sort of gear and talents she had.

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Lastly I spent some time playing Final Fantasy XIV this weekend and accomplished two things.  Firstly I managed to get my Blue Mage to 50…  which means I now need to find a party of blue mages to go collect the rest of the spells I have available to me given that everything else seems to come from a dungeon or trial.  I spent the podcast grinding out mobs in Northern Thanalan and managed to push across the line solo.  I also managed to get through The Burn which served as a bit of a roadblock since the final boss of that dungeon appears to be a PUG destroyer.  I’ve now moved the quest line along to where I am failing miserably at a fight that is about four times longer than it really needs to be.  Actually I have only failed it the one time and it was mostly because I didn’t catch on what was going on fast enough.  I opted to play through the mission as a warrior instead of a samurai, but that also meant that I was not prepared for a burn phase, because I assumed I was simply trying to out survive the encounter.

I will likely poke my head back in again tonight and give it another shot.  I think I am probably nearing the bridge between 4.4 and 4.5 and as such getting closer and closer to being able to understand what the hell is going on.

Sickly Agent

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I’m feeling like crap this morning so I am probably going to be fairly brief as far as blog posts go.  Granted I just said that in the least brief way I could possibly muster…  so who knows.  I played a little Division 2 last night and quite honestly it didn’t grab me.  Of the looty shooty games that were on the market I will say that Division was probably the one that I had the most on again off again relationship with.  Destiny I knew from the first moment I played it that I loved it.  Warframe I knew from the first moment I played it that I largely disliked it.  Division…  I was never quite certain of.  There were aspects that I liked and aspects that I didn’t like…  namely I was never a huge fan of their particular brand of hide behind shit and aim your tiny cursor at someones head.  It felt way more tactical and less visceral than a Destiny where everything is first person gun play.  I found it fine when I was trying to keep track of three targets, but stressed when I was attempting to hide from a dozen targets all bearing down on me.  The movement never felt fluid enough to compensate for the need to constantly be ducking myself behind something.  Also my target personal target acquisition skills seemed to be incompatible with zeroing in on a tiny area of motion fast enough to get in a shot before I also took a lot of damage in the process.

If anything…  all of these things seem to be worsened experience wise for me in the sequel.  The world is more cluttered and there is just more things that you have to reconcile in your field of view… and given that I spend most of my time playing on a 15.4 inch laptop screen…  tracking tiny areas of motion is a challenge.  From what I can tell Division 2 is much like Destiny 2…  where it is mostly the same game just rendered in much higher fidelity.  However just like the first game I am not entirely certain if that is a game that I actually want to play.  The whole military fantasy thing is not really my jam anymore, so that is an initial strike.  Third person shooters are less of my thing than first person shooters…  so that is another strike.  Lastly I am finding that I just don’t enjoy the run from cover to cover sort of gameplay and much prefer to run around guns a blazing…  and Division is a game that actively and brutally punishes you for that.  However as this genre broadens I feel less of a need to try and keep up with all of them.  I play Destiny and Anthem…  and apparently not Division and Warframe.

That is not to say that I won’t spend more time during the weekend giving it an opportunity to infect me with its madness.  This is just a post saying that more or less its the same game that I remember… and that I took two years to hit level cap in.  I know there are a bunch of my friends who are super amped about it and I am not really going to bash the gameplay experience.  It is good at the thing it is doing and I think it is probably better at the thing it is doing than the first game was.  I just find myself questioning if I like the thing that it is trying to do.  It is perfectly reasonable to think that a game is actually pretty good, but that it isn’t a game that you enjoy.  Division 2 is without a doubt a worthy successor to Division…  but I found myself just wanting to play more Anthem.

MMO-Lite Fantasy

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One of the things I have learned over the nearly ten years of doing this thing… is occasionally you need to see your own words reflected back at you through the eyes of another player for something to finally click into place.  Yesterday my good friend Pete left a comment on my blog and I had one of those moments of clarity.  So for reference the comment was specifically about the statement I made about having trouble engaging with a more traditional MMORPG.

I recently re-subbed to FF XIV; in my case I was so lost I rolled yet another alt to start over. Annndddd I’m really struggling to engage for that same “been playing quasi-MMOs too much” reason. I just feel like the time-invest:reward ratio is off now. Maybe it’s because I started fresh, or maybe I’ve just moved past MMOs. Of course knowing I’m all-in on Anthem in a couple of weeks is also kind of coloring all my gaming experiences now. Everything is just to ‘tide me over’ until Anthem comes.

Ultimately I think the key problem I have been having is that what I am looking for doesn’t quite exist yet.  I’ve gotten used to the rhythm of the quasi-MMO/MMO-lite style games where you get some sort of bit of your cortex lighting up every few minutes as something happens that is interesting and exciting.  This could be an engram drop or a really freaking sweet headshot…  or getting to use your super or favorite grenades…  but something cool is constantly happening.  In a traditional MMORPG it just feels sluggish by comparison with nothing really exciting happening unless you are in a dungeon…  and even then loot has been so sanitized and normalized that nothing really exciting ever drops anymore.  Gone are the days of hoping that one item you had been seeking drops…  and replaced is the item level 300 version of the same item you have been since since item level 100 just scaled up.

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Everything feels like what we used to refer to as a “stat stick”, aka those boring trinkets that had a lot of stats on them but didn’t do anything to change the gameplay.  In a MMO-Lite like Destiny, each time I pick up a new weapon it feels like an interesting and unique experience and having that one magically rare “god roll” feels so much better than the slightly less perfect versions I have littering my vault.  In Anthem… each weapon and ability load out felt vastly different than the other options…  so Venom Darts felt significantly different from Pulse Blast for example.  Items in a traditional MMORPG don’t do this… because they are trying desperately not to upset the balance of how each class relates to every other class.  As a result you get the same item over and over scaled up for level as not to upset the apple cart.

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Then there is the action aspect that I find myself craving…  in an MMORPG the skill component tends to be either mashing your buttons with Dance Dance Revolution style perfect timing, or your ability to react to things happening quickly, or in the case of Final Fantasy XIV…  execute a choreographed dance perfectly.  Please note I am not discounting the amount of skill that any of those things take, because I have done them all in one form or another but never at the level of polish that the hardcorest of hardcore raiders do.  However this just feels fundamentally different than lining up that perfect headshot or timing a grenade just right as the enemy is running down a hallway and you wind up sweeping that entire group.  That is just a level of interaction that you don’t really get in fantasy games…  and I think is in part why I have been enjoying Assassin’s Creed Origins so much because it gives me some aspects of that.

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The more Actiony Fantasy games comes close, but never quite work in the same way that a Destiny, Division, Warframe or Anthem do.  Probably the closest that exists is Skyforge, but while the combat feels great…  the overarching flow of that game is somewhat incomprehensible and it is also “very free to play”.  Neverwinter has a lot of the same traits…  and it can be super enjoyable but it is almost too MMO at times…  and again suffers from the “very free to play” hurdle as well.  I feel like I should take a moment to explain what I mean by that.  Free to play games tend to do a bunch of things to confuse the user and drive them towards buying their way out of holes…  so they give you very limited inventory or in the case of Neverwinter spend lots of time deluging you in complete useless shit that you will loot and fill up that inventory space.  They also have tons of competing currencies that have no direct exchange rate that largely just give me a headache thinking about them.  If I can manage to keep my head down and focus on the quest at hand I can enjoy these games for a period of time…  but again the gear all has the problem of feeling like the exact same item regurgitated over and over with higher stats.

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Elder Scrolls Online is a phenomenal MMORPG that wants to be action oriented… and while yes you are constantly swinging your sword with your mouse button in place of hitting an ability with the number 2 to spam it…  it also doesn’t feel very far removed from the traditional formula.  Hitting an ability doesn’t feel exciting in the game and instead just feels like hotbar combat filtered through a different lens.  I continue to play that game for its expansive and wonderful story and my love of the Elder Scrolls setting, but it failed at providing a more action oriented alternative to the MMORPG because in many ways it feels like they didn’t go far enough.  I love the fact that we are limited to a specific number of abilities, but most of those abilities don’t feel powerful enough and can be spammed…  which sorta destroys that feeling of having an exciting moment driven through gameplay.

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The game that comes the closest to nailing the Fantasy MMO-Lite is Monster Hunter World.  So many of the elements feel spot on, but it is absolutely NOT trying to be this game and it shows.  Grouping still feels awful even though at least on the PC it is driven by Steam Communities instead of a Clan that requires people to have joined the same session to invite folks into.  It is also very limited in focus… it is about hunting big monsters and if you want to do something other than that the game really doesn’t offer much in the way of opportunities.  There is no “strike” or “dungeon” construct and there are very few activities that offer an opportunity to just hang out and chill, as everything is laser focused on taking down big boss monsters.  However it does nail down the perfect crafting system for one of these MMO Lites or “collect a bunch of monster bits” and then have some NPC make your gear from it.

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The challenge is still that no one has quite created a version of the Destiny model that works for Fantasy games.  “For Honor” tried to create a version of melee combat that does things to require skill…  but it feels confusing and obtuse with its rock paper scissors inspired system of defending and attacking.  In a perfect world…  someone would take the world of Anthem… the activities of Destiny… the combat of Monster Hunter World… and package them all together in one MMO-Lite that gives me my fantasy fix.  However for the moments developers all seem to be chasing that looter shooter niche…  which is great…  but sometimes I don’t want to shoot but instead hit people with a sword.  Sure I know that Warframe has that ability but it is still a Sci-Fantasy game…  and I still have issues with the fucked up perspective of the characters in that title and the inability to zoom out further.  What I ultimately want is a game that no one has built yet.

Lost Allagan Tankybutts

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It feels lame when I say it this way… but I am been on this very slow path of trying to ease back into Final Fantasy XIV.  Most recently I have spent my time leveling as a Blue Mage, but last night I decided to try and figure out what it would take to get unstuck in the main story quest.  One of the frustrating parts about coming back to FFXIV is that generally speaking there are gear roadblocks in the way.  This is not to say that the game does not give you ample opportunity to catch up…  but you have to be playing to be able to exercise those options.  If you have been like me and largely checked out for the better part of an expansion…  you come back and find that what might have been good gear for the launch of the game…  is no longer able to actually participate in anything.

This was the case with me who was largely in 310 gear when I checked out of Stormblood and slammed right into a wall called Castrum Fluminis in the main story quest.  To be able to do this 8 player trial it requires you to have 335 item level…  of which there are a bunch of ways to get, but all of which required me to actually be doing content.  Then I was reminded of the fact that a new set of hunt seal gear went into the game.  Last night I started the evening running around and collecting Centurio Seals….  only to notice that when I checked the total I had gotten…  that I was apparently capped?  I don’t remember doing that much hunting before I left but it was enough to get me into a full set of 330 gear.  Shortly after this a very awesome guildie dropped a brand new 380 crafted axe on me pushing my item level up to 336 and over the line needed to do the trial.

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However I took the chickens route out and decided to see what it would take to gear out my Samurai in an equivalent amount of gear.  The answer?  Roughly 1 million gil by the time all was said and done bought me a new weapon and a few strategic pieces of gear that pushed my total item level up to 336 as well.  I completed the Trial as Samurai since no one actually expects much out of them considering they seem to have replaced the Dragoon as the lolclass in the minds of the populace.  I do need to get back on the tanking horse…  but last night was not the night.  I did however get through the Trial relatively easily and pushed forward in the story until I hit one of the infamous “lots of cutscenes” warnings.  Based on past experience this means thirty minutes to an hour and a half of stuff that is about to happen.

Given that it was fairly late in the evening already I took this as my queue to head on to bed.  From what I can tell I am at the border between patch 4.3 and patch 4.4…  and I have all of the content in 4.4 and 4.5 yet to go until I have reached the ultimate conclusion of Stormblood.  So far they have thrown out a few surprises… but unfortunately the news of Shadowbringers has spoiled a little bit of the conclusion.  I’ve still not watched the long form trailer that came out with FFXIV Fanfest Paris, and as such am trying to push through so that I can be up to date.  I am trying to get back into playing an MMORPG again…  but it just feels weird considering how much of the Destiny style MMO Lite I have been playing of late.

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If my math is correct… tomorrow is the beginning of the Closed Beta test in Division 2.  I will likely be pausing my MSQ progression to spend time checking that game out.  Curious… who else will I be seeing there?

Smol Joy

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I have a fairly truncated morning because I need to be into work pretty early this morning.  As a result I probably should have made a blog post last night…  but it was a weird evening.  I found it difficult to get into the right mindset to make a post, and since I don’t have a lot to talk about this morning I thought I would share pictures of something that makes me extremely happy.  Now if you follow me over on twitter you have already seen these images.  Over the weekend I made a trip to a local flea market that has a booth set up by someone who makes these awesome geeky plastic canvas creations.

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Prior to last weekend I had the Deathly Hallows sign, the Ewok and the Nintendo Controller as well as a Tardis keychain that I wear on my lanyard (not pictured).  This weekend I sorta cherry picked over some of my favorites from the rest of what they were offering.  So I added a Deathstar and Boba Fett to the Star Wars Collection, and picked up Bullet Bill and a Boo from some of the Super Mario Bros themed ones they had.  Finally I picked up a bagged set of Zelda stuff…  including Link, the Tri-Force and a Bomb

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The last time I was there I did not see the Mana Symbols from Magic the Gathering…  so I absolutely had to pick up my favorites to represent my Golgari pride and my love of all things Green and Black.  After putting these all up in my cube… I realized I had a bunch more space available so at some point I will make another trip back to add a few more to the wall.  I have this metal bar that runs the entire length of my office and I sorta want it completely covered in these creations.  The sad part is the person doesn’t have an Etsy or anything of the sort listed in the Flea Market booth or I would absolutely advertise the heck out of it.  Whatever the case they make me extremely happy and tomorrow I promise I will return with a more proper blog post.

Anthem Demo Weekend Two

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Outdoor cat has officially been fed so I can now sit down and start trying to compose my feelings about Anthem Demo weekend number two.  The first “VIP Demo” weekend was for folks who had pre-ordered the game and I will assume a certain batch of influencers that were brought to that special EA event to record footage.  You can scroll through my thoughts about that weekend in a post I made last week, but for me and most of the AggroChat crew it was a buggy and often times unplayable mess.  However there was enough good there laying just underneath the covers to make me interested and quite honestly miss playing the game.  So while I was not on nearly as much as I could have been… I played a significant amount of Anthem this weekend.  I managed to get in a Stronghold…  this games version of a Strike and spent a significant amount of time just roaming around and doing World Events and the little mini-dungeons that are available off the segment of the map we had open to us.  It galvanized my desire to play this game… and largely reinforced my decision to keep playing the “shootymans” class the Ranger…  who appears to be a really amazing single target dps class.

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What I want to talk about the most however is what a difference there was between the first and second weekends.  During the first weekend it was a constant struggle to be able to play this game…  and in the second….  everything just sorta worked flawlessly.  Sure there were some minor glitches like for some reason our javelins would not load on the “reward” screen.  Additionally I have never actually seen the full suit prep sequence because the game kicks me over to a loading screen when I assume that sequence is designed to make us ignore how generally long loading into an area takes.  However what was gone was the need to keep closing the game with task manager and loading back in to successful get into a mission.  I could just play the game as it was intended to play and this made me way more open to grouping up with friends given that it was a predictable sequence rather than a struggle to get all four players into the same instance.

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I’m very impressed with how communicative Bioware has been during this whole sequence…  and more than that I feel heard.  We all for the most part universally complained about how bad Mouse and Keyboard Flight/Swimming felt….  and they acknowledged that yeah… it feels less than optimal.  These changes are apparently already in the “live” build of the game, but what is even better is that they have started giving us a run down of things that will be fixed before the initial EA Premier launch on the 15th and what will be in place by the 22nd.

  • UI Clicking on visible options in menus fixed for 15th Feb (except social which is 22nd Feb)
  • Navigating Menu tabs with Q and E instead of old keybindings fixed for 15th Feb
  • Forge rotation speed with mouse improved – 15th Feb
  • Scrolling with mouse wheel wont zoom your javelin AND scroll the menu (will be contextual based on where your mouse is) – 15th Feb
  • D-Pad will show as keyboard bindings – 15th Feb
  • Turning off Motion Blur in settings now works (decoupled from post processing) – 22nd Feb
  • HDR toggle available – 22nd Feb
  • Camera Shake slider added – 22nd Feb

I’ve said it before but I believe that Bioware feels the pressure that this launch has to go fairly flawlessly, given the perceived failing that Andromeda was.  The whole multiple launch dates thing does not do it any favors, especially considering that a lot of the issues that plagued Andromeda were fixed by the end of that first week.  EA has a bad habit of shredding game studios, and the whole teasing a Dragon Age game…  I think is more insurance than anything else to try and keep delaying that decision.  If launch goes like last weekend however I think we are going to be just fine, and what I really want is the same level of communication that they are giving the community to continue into the first year of the game.

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I really do think that Anthem might be the game that can finally blended the different looty shooty genre players together.  There is enough here to intrigue the Destiny players with a rich and interesting lore and the Ranger class being essentially a “Destiny” class where it is mostly gun play with a few abilities.  There is also something here for the Warframe players that want move movement and ability spam…  and the Storm and the Interceptor fill those roles nicely.  Then there is a class for the player who just wants to be a big freaking mech in the form of the Colossus.  What is better is that gameplay feels more enjoyable when you are running with a pretty decent mix of the four classes.  Ranger as far as we can tell is going to be the class that has the highest single target damage…  so great for boss killing.  Storm is the battle tactician that takes an overwatch position over the battlefield and can effect large swaths of it with its abilities.  Interceptor is the fact melee shredder that is probably going to be excellent at grabbing objectives and avoiding taking damage.  Then you have the colossus which is the king of staying alive…  as was seen this weekend when Ashgar absolutely saved the day by surviving long enough to start bringing us all back up during a stronghold.  They all have their key niche and all feel great when played together.

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Ultimately I progressed my character as far as it probably could have been during the Demo.  I managed to upgrade every slot to a level 19 rare item and my final build was an Light Machine Gun for my main weapon… a Marksman Rifle for my secondary to melt anything at a distance like snipers.  Then I would run poison darts to act as my primer… that also doubles as a debuff that causes me to just deal extra damage to that target.  Frag Grenades after trying a bunch of different options seems to be my detonator of choice, and also a decent crowd sweeper.  Then muster point is what I was running as a damage boost for helping to burn down those big mobs.  As far as components I was running one to increase Frag damage and another to increase LMG Ammunition, and it was a build I was pretty damned happy with.  I could in theory go for a max damage build by picking up the devastator sniper rifle, but I never got one of those to drop for me and did not see it in the crafting tables.  I also settled in on the above paint scheme which is pretty much the colors I tend to choose in any game that gives me the options.

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Towards the end of the weekend they started an event that caused Primals to spawn in large numbers and frequency… so I managed to get in and take down a few of the bigger ones.  In fact I was fighting one of the big primals when the servers went down, so no clue what loot might have dropped.  Weirdly the game let me keep fighting, so I am guessing part of the world is cached on the client itself?  This gives me concerns when it comes to what hackers are going to be able to do to the game…  but without a PVP element I am not entirely certain how much it will effect me.  I am a little saddened that it sounds like while my weekend was smooth and flawless…  others that had a flawless previous weekend…  started encountering disconnect problems during this test.  I’ve now played 16 hours worth of the Anthem demo and can say that I am looking forward to starting on the 15th.  If you have not already picked up the game…  you can pony up for a month of Premier…  which gives you a discount that you can then apply to your preorder…  and will also give you access to the full game on the 15th instead of the 22nd.

So my awesome readers…  are you picking up the game?  Will you be joining me on the 15th or are you waiting on the 22nd…  or are you just going to take a hard pass?