High Sodium and Paragliding

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This morning I am going to start the blog out with some tales of high sodium content.  It is safe to say that the Final Fantasy XIV “serious gamer” community is grumpy as hell right now.  Essentially the downtime on Thursday introduced the return of the Diadem… which is functionally what Free Company airships are used for… and also something that I have never actually gotten the chance to participate.  My understanding is it is a giant outdoor timed hunt zone of a sort, that has lots of mini objectives that then can reward chests full of loot.  I am always down for Square to revitalize content that has fallen by the wayside… I am looking at you hunt marks.  However why folks are super salty about this is that apparently there is a phenomenally rare chance at getting a 280 weapon to drop while doing the content.  This is of note 5 item levels higher than either the latest relic step or the weapons from Savage Alexander.  Ashgar posted a comment in our podcast slack that I can only assume came from reddit…

Can confirm, am salty.

Then I did some napkin math and if one person of the 72 players who participated wanted to get a specific weapon out of the 13 available, they’d need to do the Emergency Mission 1000 times to have a reasonable (read around 65%) of obtaining it. For a 90% chance of obtaining it, you’d need to put 2200 attempts into Emergency Missions.

If you play the roughly 2350 hours we have until we get early access to SB, you will at one emergency mission per hour, distribute 150 hours of sleep and non FFXIV related over 98 days, lets say you spend 30 min each day on food, personaly hygiene etc. and you will sleep for 1 hour per day. This is, of course, calculated with queue times estimated as 0, which I’m sure they will be. /s

So the thing is… getting one of these 280 weapons is quite literally winning the lottery.  It is not something anyone can reasonably aspire to, but serves as enough of a carrot to get people interested at all item levels of gear to start doing Diadem once more.  This absolutely fits the modus operadi of Yoshi P and crew… which is largely bribing players to do whatever content that they feel is under represented by placing the big new shiny rewards there.  What I don’t get however is the folks claiming they are going to cancel the game over this action.  This has been the way content is balanced from the beginning of A Realm Reborn…  and nifty things through bribery is a constant theme.  This does not however negate the work you put in on either a Alex weapon, or your Relic because nothing can ever tarnish the shine of those memories.  If you are playing a game only to have things no one else will ever have…  then you are probably playing for all of the wrong reasons.  Numerical perfection is a constantly moving target, and one that will be outdated the next time a new patch lands.  However if you just play for the joy of playing… and the memories of accomplishing content with your friends… then no one can ever take that from you.  What I see instead is a company throwing one hell of a carrot into content that would have easily become outdated the second it launched, and more importantly is a way of getting folks geared in 265 gear which will help their transition into Stormblood.

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One again I am super annoyed with having to snag screenshots from the web and use them in my posts when I talk about Breath of the Wild.  The Wii U is so cludgy when it comes to posting screenshots, but I suppose at some point I really need to figure out how to make it work.  Last night instead of hanging out on the sofa or upstairs… I opted to chill in the bedroom and play some more Zelda.  As of the end of last night I have officially left the starter zone, and in truth the biggest thing holding me back… was the fact that I could not figure out how in the holy hell to cook things.  My key problem with Zelda is that things just feel grossly un-intuitive.  For example…  I expected to be able to walk up to a cooking pot… and see a “Press Button to Cook” prompt.  However this never actually happened and instead I had to google it… and then google it again until I found someone who could explain it in simple enough terms to treat me as though I understood nothing about this game.  There are a lot of steps to this process that are not painfully obvious or were not to me.  First off you have to make sure that your cooking pot has a fire under it…  so for me that meant taking a branch…  catching it on fire and then whacking the cooking pot which then lit the wood underneath it.  From there you have to go into your inventory and press X on the materials to “hold” it.  That however is not enough… you have to press A to add the item to your arms…  and you go through and pick out the ingredients you want to cook doing this.

Finally when you exit the menu… you see the prompt to cook the items link is crudely holding…  and you are treated to maybe the most magical tune ever.  Like I am already hooked on cooking because I want to hear that tune over and over and over… and I tried cooking damned never everything in my inventory that looked even vaguely edible.  There is a completely magical remix that blends the tune with the Carmen Sandiego theme.  The cooking gave me access to frost resistance food… which then in turn gave me access to the last two shrines which allowed me to leave newbie plateau.  I feel like maybe I am starting to hit my stride with this game, and maybe stopping the comparison with Horizon?  Probably the highlight of last night for me was finding the Great Plateau Steppe Talus and then defeating it…  after so damned many deaths.  One of the things that I like about this game is that the auto save points seem to be sprinkled around just often enough… that you are really never losing too much time in making an attempt.  So for the Steppe Talus, the save point was just outside of the little valley it is in so I could quickly run back and keep trying things until I finally defeated it.  The trick for me was to try and stay on at all costs which meant sometimes crawling back down into climbing mode, and other times just simply running around on top to make sure I didn’t get knocked off.  The hardest part however was once again the fact that no one weapon would ever last more than a handful of swings so I literally killed it…  with a single weapon left in my inventory.  This made it extremely awkward trying to kill a handful of skeletons that spawned as I was walking out of the valley.  Whatever the case… I think I see the potential now for what boss fights might be like and I also sort of get the reference to souls games.  That term gets thrown around way too much lately, but in this case I think they largely mean the need to keep learning new tricks to defeat overwhelming odds.  In the case of the Steppe Talus, if I got hit once… with a solid enough hit it was simply over.  So I very much had to stay ahead of the combat, and only through not making any mistakes was I really able to defeat it.

Docks and Bellowbacks

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I believe I have talked about one of my side projects before, but for those who are un-indoctrinated…  I have been charged with setting up a gaming space at work.  For the first pass we decided to go with a Wii U given that it is sort of a universal middle ground between folks who self identify as gamers… and those who do not.  Everyone has played at least one round of Wii Bowling, and already since installing folks I never thought would sit down for a game of Mario Kart have done so.  Part of the build out involved picking out controller docks because we did not want a bunch of wayward cables.  For the Wii U pro controllers I chose the above dock by Nyko…  admittedly more on price than anything.  However after getting it and setting everything up… I am absolutely in love with the design.  Each controller has a boot of sorts that you plug into the USB port, and it fits relatively snugly.  Then on the backside is a magnet that holds the controller in place on the dock itself.  It just works amazingly well and the magnet is strong enough to not only hold the controller but also serve as a guiding mechanism to make sure that the controller gets docked successfully.  Which made me start to wonder…  does Nyko make these docks for any other console system?  My challenge is that in my office I have a PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and am contemplating moving my Wii U back upstairs.  That is five different styles of controllers that need to be charged and cradled in a reasonable manner to keep from getting a whole slew of cords tangled.

The tragedy however is that while Nyko makes controller docks for pretty much every system available…  none of them work like this one.  In a perfect world you could simply buy one base dock tree and then a bunch of connectors for the various controller types that you have.  After a few hours of frantic googling… it seems like no one really has a system that works like this.  There was however one apparently for the previous console generation that had support for the Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360…  but for whatever reason never carried forth into this generation.  What I would love is for Nyko to simply just release versions of this docking system for all of the platforms, or in truth…  just sell me docks and then controller boots individually and allow me to mix and match my own system.  In part I am writing about this problem today, because often times as soon as I complain about an issue… one of my readers comes out of the woodwork to present a solution.  So if you have any ideas…  that does not involve access to a 3D printer because I am already thinking along those lines…  I would love to hear it.  It is honestly the magnets that make this system work so amazingly well and quite honestly…  I don’t have the electrical chops to make a magnetic USB connection work.  I think part of the problem is that the Wii U pro controller uses the USB connector that the previous generation used…  so mini instead of micro.  That said… this feels like money left on the table because I know a lot of people like me with multiple console systems all with controllers that need charging.

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Last night I returned to the cursed lands and continued my process of roaming around aimlessly.  I went a completely different direction than the one I had been heading in… and encountered the Fire Bellowback…  or as I think of them Fire Beetles.  I ran into a trio roaming around some ruins… and after scanning them a few times to sort out how I was going to attack I went after them with gusto.  The thing I didn’t expect was the fact that they essentially throw napalm at you, and have an insane range.  I was well into the fields on the far side of the river and they were still lobbing fireballs at me.  Essentially I got damned good at dodging while fighting them, and eventually whittled them down using my bow kitted out with extra tear damage.  As you can see in the above screenshot they each rewarded an insane 1050 experience, but also provided a hefty amount of salvage.  Other than that I actually started working on quests… namely the “Revenge of the Nora” story line.  I have been playing this game in short spurts, and prior to last night it largely meant just roaming around and taking down machines.  I cannot underline just how much fun that is… and how perfect the game play feels as you bulls-eye a watcher in the eye and watch it explode.

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I really like that Horizon seems to reward you equally for aimless roaming and focused gameplay.  I essentially had looked at the direction that the game was suggesting I go… and went in the opposite direction and largely…  that was a completely fine decision.  It was not really until last night that I finally sat down and started following the quests… and that too was a perfect fine decision.  I am broke once more however because I bought a purple set of armor, and decided to go with the version that has balanced resistances since… more often than not I end up in melee range before fights are finished.  Probably a lot of my success with the fire beetles is due to the fact that I had fairly decent resists going on.  What I really want now is some upgraded weapons, because I am still using the Carja bow that you get from either collectors edition or the pre-order bonus.  I got a whole slew of items and I am not completely sure which ones came from which thing.  I’ve heard that the hunter trials reward items, so in theory I need to focus on doing some of those now.  Regardless this game is still freaking amazing… and it serves as part of the reason why I have struggled to get into Breath of the Wild.  In many ways the newest Zelda game just feels awkward and cludgy…  whereas Horizon absolutely nails smooth and flawless gameplay.

A Good Night

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Last night was as the post title might give away…  a really good night.  Lately in Final Fantasy XIV I have been caught up in one of two different grinds.  The first being getting everyone to 50 by running floors 51-60 over and over again in Palace of the Dead.  The second being leveling crafting through the use of the Ixal beast tribe quests…  which is significantly more time consuming that it initially seems.  There have been so many nights I have completely squandered the entire evening trying to get that last high quality item needed to turn in a quest.  This past evening however we ran group content, and actually had a full team of eight players.  Granted at some point during the evening we lost Mor, and Neph is in Iceland and unable to game with us…  but we have built back up to a large enough group that we can do things together without queuing in randos.  Not that random players in Final Fantasy XIV are ever really a problem… it is just nice to not have to explain that we are hashing things out on a voice chat that they don’t have access to.  The prime target of the evening was Zurvan the last of the warring triad.  While I was not really a huge fan of Sephirot…  I have to say both Sophia and Zurvan are awesome fights.  Zurvan is a bit more of a good old fashioned avoid the shit fight… but still very fun to tank at least.

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After finishing up Zurvan we got another person keyed for the last part of Alexander by running them all in sequence.  I have a feeling we are ultimately going to be doing a lot of this at some point given that both Stormrazor and Muspel are coming up through the ranks.  It sounds like at some point we really need to run the early Alex for Storm, which is absolutely a thing we can do.  All in all the Alex fights are extremely fun…  except for maybe that middle section.  There are definitely some memorable encounters, but I simply don’t like it nearly as much as I like the first four and the last four.  I actually managed to roll lucky and walked away with an accessory and a belt, which takes my total item level up to 247… which I am simply hoping is high enough to avoid another gear wall during the next batch of content.  That has been the problem with Heavensward and one I am hoping they are fixing for Stormblood…  the hitting of walls that are not super easy to get to through casual content.  I still feel like they need to be doing a round of hunts each item tier to help folks catch up in a solo manner as well as through doing group content.  Final Fantasy XIV as a whole is a weird social experiment… of applying pressure in one direction and rewards in another direction to try and influence player behavior.  Sometimes it works out perfectly… and other times it feels cludgy as hell.  The gear barriers are one of those rare occasions in this game where I feel like they made the wrong choice.  That said it was a really great night of running stuff with friends, and now that we seem to have a regular group of eight people…  so many other options open up.

 

Random Screenshots #4

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This morning is one of those mornings when I am super thankful that I cobbled together the random screenshot tool.  Last night I sort of failed at doing any measure of directed content.  I tuned into Spiral’s stream as she continued to push forward into Final Fantasy V and spent most of the night alt tabbing between twitch and Final Fantasy XIV.  I’ve been on this mission to make sure that I complete the Ixal quests each day, and they take significantly longer than your average quest.  In truth the bulk of the slowdown is all of the swapping back and forth between classes and having to craft items over and over until I get X number of high quality baubles for the turn in.  Sometimes I just get unlucky, and the higher crafting gets the harder this seems to be.  So while I might only need 4 items for the turn in… I might end up with a stack of 15 normal quality items that I had to craft to get those four HQs.  Needless to say when I finally finished up with the quests it was around 9 pm last night… and I was feeling largely done with Final Fantasy XIV for the night.  So instead I popped into the bedroom where I have my Wii U connected and played some more Zelda.  It is growing on me, but I still find a lot about the game frustrating, or at least non-intuitive.  As a result I don’t have a whole hell of a lot to talk about this morning, and definitely no screenshots so… once again I crawl back into the vault and do a random sort.

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Chua Starting Area – Wildstar

While I may have issues with Wildstar… it will always be a gorgeous game.  This is I believe a screenshot from the tail end of Crimson Isle, the Chua/Draken starting zone.  There are times I miss my little Chua, and I went so far as to create a new one awhile back as a Warrior.  The problem is the game of Wildstar itself just never quite clicks.  There is just too much going on visually for me, and the style of targeted directional abilities with hotbar combat never seems to feel as good as I think they hoped it would.  I feel like the game would feel a lot better on a console where you can bind your main attacks to the triggers and bumpers and control movement and aiming with both analog sticks.  In theory you could emulate this… but keyboard to controller emulators never quite work as flawlessly as if you set the controls up for that purpose out of the box.  Just like running a console with a mouse and keyboard…  you are trying to fake out the hardware while using out another control scheme under the hood.

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Funny thing that I get a World of Warcraft image in this search because I really have not talked about the game lately much.  I am admittedly on a bit of a break right now, and in part I am simply just not forcing myself to log in when I don’t really want to.  For three or four weeks the real world got in the way of my raiding… and then I just got out of the habit of logging in regularly.  As it stands I have this meeting on Wednesdays that usually lets out about 6pm which leaves me an hour to get home.. find food and log into the game for the raid which is simply too rushed for my tastes.  So for the moment I am on extended leave, until the spirit drives me to start playing again.  This image is from me finding the Burning Plate of the Worldbreaker… aka the Protection Warrior alternate appearance.  This is probably the moment in Legion when I was playing the most intently, and every single day I made a trek out here to see if the shield was up.  The day it finally was… I took lots of screenshots and I so happily used this appearance until I got something newer unlocked recently.  The Legion launch and the first few patch cycles will always be a happy memory… even if I have sort of fallen out of the habit of playing the game.

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Another happy moment in a game… at the end of a long grind is when I finally got Turquoise on my Chocobo in Final Fantasy XIV.  For those who are unfamiliar… your base Chocobo can be dyed through an insane process of feeding the chocobo various fruits.  What makes the process maddening is that one set of fruit alters the RGB values… and another set of fruit seemed to instead alter CMYK.  When we first started doing this it was largely trial and error before the calculators came out… and even when they existed it never really was an exact science.  At the time we were doing this… the fruit for dyeing was prohibitively expensive.  While we were trying to keep an active stock of seeds growing in the garden… it never quite met up with the desires.  If you find yourself interested in this process, check out this calculator because it seems to be the best.  I remember towards the end I teetered back and forth between three colors until it finally clicked and gave me the Turquoise that I was hunting for.  All of this…  was simply to make sure that it matched my Leviathan Barding.

Cars and Wielding Garbage

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I said this over the weekend and I feel like I need to reiterate it this morning.  For a little over a month my wife has been passively looking for a new vehicle.  When she hit 120,000 miles on her Pontiac Torrent all sorts of little things started failing.  The latest is a check engine light being caused by something in the engine emission filters… which in itself isn’t a huge deal apart from the fact that it disables remote start while the engine is in an error code.  So for a month now I have been receiving links to vehicles from my wife, and we’ve made a few ventures out to car lots to see what we think of various models.  There is an auto lot within a mile of the house that leaves all of the vehicles unlocked so that it is sort of a tradition to go there on Sunday when you to check out various vehicles unmolested by sales people.  There are a lot of vehicles that got marked off of the list simply because my knees would not fit underneath the dash, and some others the first time my wife test drove them.  We had narrowed things down to a half dozen different models, and one lot about an hour from where we live seemed to have all of them.  The irony is  that when we ultimately bought a vehicle…  it wasn’t even one that was on the short list.  The whole car buying experience thought feels foreign to me, and grossly outdated.  During this whole sequence of events we found out that no car lot has anything even resembling updated inventory on their website.  Its like this entire process is stuck somewhere back in the 1960s and never quite graduated to modernity.

My wife and I are both very data-centric people…  and actively reject the “personal touch” that car salesmen try and put on the deal.  Fortunately we maybe found the perfect sales person for us, who literally just handed us the keys to the vehicles we wanted to check out and left us completely alone to wander around the small town.  Over the course of the day we drove I think five different vehicles, and spent a ton of time on our phones researching each of them while sitting in said vehicle.  The problem is… a vehicle seems to permanent.  We are not the type to trade them off frequently and instead tend to buy a vehicle and drive it until past the point it is paid off.  Finally it came down to a dance of “funny math” which is frustrating as shit.  Ultimately the dance involved the monthly payment rate, and a thin line in the sand that we were not willing to budge off of, which meant that in order to seal the deal given that we were not trading in a vehicle…  that the dealership had to come down off the price a bit.  There was a funny sequence of events where the dealer and my wife were both on their phones using the exact same financing calculator app trying to reach a consensus of numbers.  Whatever the case we wound up buying, after an  entire day of looking at this one lot…  and made it home just in time for the AggroChat podcast.

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The other big happening of the weekend is that I now have Zelda Breath of the Wild in my grubby little hands.  No that does not mean I have a switch, but instead have been playing it on the Wii U.  The screenshots I will be posting are not mine, but instead ones I have scavenged from the internet, because I do not have my Wii U set up so that it can go through a capture card… and I have never quite figured out how the hell to take a screenshot on the console itself.  Even more so I have no clue how to POST a screenshot someplace I can actually snag it if I did take a screenshot.  I have to say I have really mixed emotions about this game, and in truth I have barely just scratched the surface.  I’ve cleared two of the early plateau shrines and have been trying to figure out how to get to a third one that is in a snowy region.  Any time I get close to it, I start taking ticks of damage from the cold…  and this is the point where I realized that there was a temperature gauge in the UI.  The first hurdle that I have been trying to get past is the controls themselves.  The default mapping of buttons is not that great to use… with jump being assigned to X at the top of the button layout… where I am much more used to it being B at the bottom of the button layout.  This however apparently is something you can fix, but the other problem is I am so used to using triggers as weapon attacks in modern games and keep accidentally throwing whatever weapon I have equipped when I accidentally hit the right bumper.

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The other big problem I have been having is that so far the game has the “Halo problem” for me.  What I mean by that is that in Halo you have to constantly keep switching off weapons and wind up using some absolutely trash to try and progress through levels.  The same thing is happening here… where a given weapon seems to last maybe one or two combat sequences before it breaks and I have to hurriedly swap to some other random piece of junk I picked up along the way.  I’ve killed plenty of things by beating it down with a skeleton arm and I am not super proud of it.  This is a Zelda game… I want to use a sword and a shield and until the game gives me some sort of permanent option for this I am not going to be terribly happy.  It gave me a foresters axe early on… and I loved that weapon…  right up until the point that it broke and now I feel like I am constantly robbed of the amount of fun I had using it.  My fear is that I am going to bounce pretty soon if the game does not end up giving me some unlimited durability weapons that I can just use as often as I like.  As far as the goods however… once I got used to the clunky controls it does in fact feel like an open world Zelda.  I like that I can choose my own battles and that I see enemy camps usually well ahead of them actually attacking me.  There was a cool sequence where there were a bunch of bow wielding characters up in a tower with no visible way to get up.  However there was a draw bridge and I was able to sever the ropes holding it up with arrows causing it to fall down below and giving me access.  This is a primary example of the sort of visual puzzle solving that seems to be going on in this game, and the early shrines I believe are teaching you a toolbox that can then be used later in the game to solve more complex puzzles.  I do however absolutely want to stab the “Old Man” or at least push him off the tower, because I find him really annoying.

Garula Is Mad

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Tonight I am sitting down to knock out a blog post because in the morning I will be interrupting my routine.  Tomorrow night my wife and I will be going to see the a stage production of the Wizard of Oz and it is going to simply be much handier to have a single vehicle.  However this also means that I have to get up and out the door considerably earlier than I normally would.  On an average day I leave the house around 7 and tomorrow that deadline is getting pushed up before 6:30.  There is no way I can get showered and ready and write a blog post all within that time frame so you are getting something tonight.  I was a bit all of the place putting time in Final Fantasy XIV, Horizon Zero Dawn and Final Fantasy XV.  All of them were enjoyable in their own way but much like last night…  I was never fully committed to any of them.  I think I am trying to come down with something, because I have just felt drained and hollow at the end of the day.

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The highlight of the night however was hanging out on Spiral/Weiward’s Twitch channel as she played Final Fantasy V.  The entire AggroChat crew has a very specific relationship with Final Fantasy V.  The game I believe is among Ash’s favorites in the series, and as a result we get roped into participating in the Four Job Fiesta every year.  I’ve talked about the charity event numerous times, but the roots are that you play Final Fantasy V with only a randomly chosen set of jobs.  The truth is I have never actually played Final Fantasy V legitimately, having only beaten it while doing the Fiesta.  That said it was super interesting to watch Spiral struggle with some of the same things we have all struggled with in confronting this game.  The best part of the night however is when she started having the same realizations that a lot of us have… about the deep connections between a lot of the Final Fantasy XIV Heavenward content and characters and settings from V.  You can be absolutely certain that when the Fiesta time comes around again, we will be pestering Spiral to join in the fun.

Many Games! Handle It!

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Last night was a bit of an odd one, in that I did not get out of work until after 6 pm and did not get home until almost 7 pm.  The series of meetings that I have been thrust into on Wednesday nights has been a thing, and there seems to be no end to them in the near future.  By the time I finally got home I was feeling fairly lousy, and after fixing dinner for wife and I didn’t really feel like doing much.  I sort of melted into the couch and attempted to do a little gaming on the laptop, but before I realized it I was falling asleep.  My wife seemed to be going through the same thing and by the time I headed to bed around 8 pm she was completely dead to the world on the couch and unwakeable without going through an excessive amount of effort.  So I left her sleeping there and crashed…  only to wake up just shy of 1 am due to the cats getting into a bit of a tussle.  I stumbled into the kitchen to take some meds because I was still feeling generally lousy, and around that point in my sleepy fumbling I dropped a pill blister on the floor that miraculously roused sleeping beauty.  So we attempted to head to bed while not waking up enough to make falling right back to sleep a chore.  Thankfully after about thirty minutes of “adjusting” I got right back to sleep and was not woken again until my watch “pre-alarm” started going off.  Generally speaking my smart watch makes me up by buzzing taps about a minute ahead of our insanely annoying alarm on the other side of the room…  giving me a bit of a gentle rousing before the crash of reality hits with the elder machination.

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The challenge I am struggling with right now is there are just too damned many games I want to play.  For starters thanks to a whole slew of reasons I have yet to be Final Fantasy XV.  As I said the other day I am between two decisions on this game… do I force myself to push ahead and play the game in a manner that I do not feel enjoyable, or do I keep piddling away at it in my own manner and make the most of it?  So far I am leaning towards option two, and I am still very much enjoying this game.  Were this my ONLY game I probably would be considerably further in it, because in every manner it feels like a single player MMO to me, and I am sort of piddling around in it like I do an MMO.

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Then there is of course Horizon Zero Dawn, the new hotness that I want to spend all my time playing.  I wrote at length about my feelings regarding this game and it bummed me out that I didn’t feel okay with hanging out upstairs and playing it last night.  I felt largely out of sorts and the game does in fact require a modicum of coordination to land shots in the appropriate sweet spots.  As a result I opted against playing, but I still have a super strong drive to do so… and am hoping I will be feeling generally grand this evening and can return to exploring the much more opened world.

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Then there is of course Zelda Breath of the Wild which should be arriving for my Wii U next Tuesday.  I am not really sure why the delay but in truth I am a bit thankful for it.  I’ve opted against getting a Switch on launch day, because really there is just this one title that I would want to play on it.  In theory I will be happy enough playing it on the Wii U because all I really want to do is explore the world and get my Zelda on once again.  That said the major problem is… it is once again another big game stacked on top of a pile of already big games.

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Another big game that is now sitting in my Steam Library waiting to be installed is Torment Tides of Numenera.  The funny thing about Kickstarter games is that when they finally release… they sort of sneak up on you.  I just looked it up in gmail, and my original backing of this game was on March 6th of 2013, and almost four years later it finally shows up.  The problem with Torment however is that it is also waiting in line behind another similar title… Tyranny which I also have yet to finish.  Spoiler alert, Tyranny will be the March AggroChat game club title, so one way or another I will be finishing that one off in the coming weeks.  However I really only want to have one classic PC RPG sitting waiting in the wings at a time, so for the moment Torment will sit there waiting.

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Then there is of course the next Mass Effect game which releases somewhere towards the end of March.  I am hoping and praying that this will not be another Dragon Age Inquisition, where it is a Bioware experience that I just could not get into for whatever reason.  Generally speaking I like the Mass Effect series way better than I do Dragon Age, because overall the games have been a much more even handed experience for me.  My favorite in the series is Mass Effect 2, but I still find it super easy to get enjoyment out of both the original and the third installment.  I’ve played through the entire sequence several times as well, and they still have lots of great replayability for me personally.  I am hoping that Andromeda just adds to that experience, but once again it is a HUGE game… landing at almost exactly the same time as everything else.

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Then in the summer we have Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind… which lands June 6th and looks awesome.  The only problem there however is that I know the experience is going to get overshadowed by the launch of another MMO expansion.  However this post is more a placeholder saying that I would absolutely LOVE to wrap up the other content, or at least make a dent in it before Morrowind officially lands.

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Finally we have Stormblood… the Final Fantasy XIV expansion that is certain to overshadow literally anything else that is going on at that time.  It launches June 20th and is going to ultimately spawn a feeding frenzy of leveling through both the new story and content and beginning all of the things that come with a proper expansion.  Essentially this is also a line in the sand…  that I basically need to have completed any of the games that I mentioned above before we reach this point in the year or I am simply not going to get around to it for several months.  I am certain that I have left some things off of the list, but it seems like there are just an awful lot of big gaming experiences landing next to each other that I really want to play.  What I mean by “big gaming” is that each of these is a massive game featuring more gameplay that a person could reasonably sit through in a day or two.  With a shooter for example, you have a linear story arc that follows a sequence of levels until you finally reach the crescendo in the final boss fight. Each of the games on my list however is an RPG with meandering and character progression… all of which for me at least can take hundreds of hours of gameplay rather than tens of hours.  For the moment however… I am going to keep juggling FFXV and Horizon and see where I can make it progress wise.  However I still feel like I am drowning in too many good games to play at once and the fear of missing out…  is tangible.

Horizon Impressions

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Yesterday morning I warned my friends that there was a 99.9% chance that I would end up hunting Zoids all night long, and not to expect me for anything else.  This was a completely accurate sentiment.  Sure I popped into Final Fantasy XIV long enough to do my Ixal crafting dailies…  which admittedly take way longer than any other set of quests…  but after that I had a date with Aloy.  Now Monday night I got in for about an hour as soon as the game unlocked, and spent at least a little bit of time getting myself adjusted to the world.  My goal this morning is to give you my spoiler free impressions… or at least as spoiler free as I possibly can while still talking about the game and showing things off.  When I logged in last night I descended into the valley for the first time on zip line to start my first off rails questing, and I have to say…  I was instantly hooked on the game.  Granted from the moment I booted it up and played through the first little bit… the hook was already setting pretty strongly.  One of the things we do as gamers is try and compare every game that comes along to something else that already exists.  The problem with doing this in regards to Horizon Zero Dawn is there is just a lot of things this game is drawing from.  In theory if you took Skyrim and blended it with Fallout…  then mixed in a huge dose of the modern Tomb Raider games with a little Mad Max and in truth a touch of Farcry…  and you end up with a pretty good explanation of this game.  More importantly than that… this game is what I wanted Turok Dinosaur hunter to always be…. stalking awesomely augmented dinosaurs with only my bow and my wits.

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What is most impressive about this melange of different genres is just how damned good it feels.  Not only does the world have a high coolness factor but it also feels like it makes sense.  Things exist for a reason, and as the player and observer… it feels like you understand the whys of the world better than the characters that participate in it because you can theorize about what each and every little Easter Egg laid before you might mean.  In many ways you get the impression that this is an alternate version of Fallout… where instead of returning to the surface and finding the world a barren wasteland…  the first survivors found a world reclaimed by nature and populated by the machines they created run amok and self replicating.  Granted none of this is stuff that I know, just things that I have started turning around in my head.  What is absolutely true is you are existing in a world where the machine and the wildlife are equally at home on the grassy plains, and you as a hunter need components from both to survive.  So with your bow and your spear you set out to scavenge what you need from the landscape.  You play the role of an outcast, someone shunned by the tribe from birth…  and the key driving force of your actions is more than anything to find out why.  The shunning aspect feels a little odd, especially given how many of the tribe you end up helping out along your way as optional side missions.  I was originally wondering if these wound up effecting the flow of the story at all.. but so far having played through the first little segment it really doesn’t seem to other than offering items and leveling opportunites.

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One of my problems with games that put a bow in my hands is generally that bows have extremely limited ammunition.  I love bow weapons, but have always hated either trying to make sure I purchased enough arrows before I left town… or making a trip back to do so in the middle of doing something else.  Given that the world of Horizon is a world of scavengers…  they fix this issue with giving you the ability to craft most of your needs on the fly.  So at any point… even in the middle of a battle which seems a little awkward…  I can crack open my crafting pane and knock out a few arrows so that I can continue the fight.  The same is true with traps when you eventually get the ability to use those, and upgraded ammunition like fire arrows.  Similarly your gear can be modified to improve its stats and tweak its abilities…  but I question if this is going to be a key mechanic or if its just the equivalent of enchanting something and you will keep shifting bows and spears as you travel through the world and get exposure to better armor and weapons.  I wound up getting the digital deluxe edition and on top of the pre-order bonus… I wound up with a bunch of different options for gear that you would not normally start out with.  The only negative here is that there is a moment in the story where someone makes what is probably intended to be a significant upgrade for you…  and it ends up not being an upgrade at all.

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At this point I have finished playing through what could ultimately be referred to as the “starter zone”.  So many times in video games there is a closed off and protected area that you start the game in… and through a sequence of events you are pushed out into the much wider world.  I stopped playing at roughly 11 pm last night and I had just literally crossed this barrier, and figured that I really should call it a night otherwise I would literally be up for another two hours.  That means to complete this “intro” section it took me roughly five hours… one hour the first night and four hours last night, which all things considered seems to be like a fair amount of game play.  Granted I always stop and smell the roses and I attempted to do all of the side quests I could possibly do, as well as spending some time gathering resources to upgrade my quiver and various other inventory elements.  What I like the most about this game is that it feels like I truly am self sufficient.  I can live off of the things that I scavenge from the land… be it herbs to fill my medicine pouch, or upgrading my various pouches to be more effective at gathering.

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The only thing that I don’t really like is that it feels like maybe the game sets you up a little bit to fail.  There are some items that you scavenge off of the bodies of the machines that are clearly marked as “crafting” materials.  So those make complete sense to hold into for long term use.  However there is another category that is marked as “trade to vendors, sell for shards” given that metal shards are the universal currency as well as a crafting material.  So my immediate thought was that these would be vendor trash and I could simply sell them with impunity.  That is absolutely not the case and as I found out from later vendors… certain items require certain scavenged components as well as shards to purchase.  So right now there is a set of armor that I would love to have…  but it requires me to collect two watcher eyes…  something that I have had plenty of in my inventory but had been selling them to vendors for shards up until that point.  Basically…  what I am telling you is to hold onto the various materials that you pick up off the machines unless you find out for certain that you are not going to need them.  The game at least in theory tries to teach you this… but the lesson was not as clearly outlined as it should have been when you trade a part you scavenge for an item.  I am used to bringing all sorts of random crap to NPCs for the sake of a quest… and did not realize that the game was attempting to teach me that this is a thing that could and does happen.

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Up until this point I have really only talked about the game play, which is generally a safe spoiler free den of information to dwell on.  Now I am going to attempt to talk about the story, which is a section where I am going to get a lot more vague and general.  For lack of better phrasing… as good as the game feels when you are fighting robotic dinosaurs… it also feels equally good when you are dealing with story elements.  The game has created a world that I instantly want to know more about, and populated it with a bunch of interesting characters that I have feelings about be they good feelings… or bad feelings.  I already care far more about this game than I do many others that I simply go through the paces because they are mechanically enjoyable.  I really like that the game allows me to tailor the Aloy I want to play through giving me a series of dialog choices that are reminiscent of the Bioware games.  There will generally be an option marked with a fist, an option marked with a heart, and an option marked with a brain.  So far I have not really chosen the fist that often, but I tend to alternate between the heart and the brain depending on how I feel about a given character.  These choices do at least somewhat effect how later interactions are going to work out…  based at least in one small part on how I interacted with someone when I was a tiny babby Aloy.  I chose to use the brain option… and sure enough the game remembered it and brought it up at a later time.  The game does a great job of giving you characters that you are going to hate… and other characters that you are either going to genuinely like… or at least begrudgingly respect.

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All in all this game has lived up to every expectation I had for it.  I wanted an awesome post-apoc game where I roamed around on an awesome bow lady and took down robotic dinosaurs.  This game has paid that off in spades, but also given me a really interesting world that I already deeply care about, as well as giving me just enough call to action to make me want to move forward in the quest chain.  This is where so many games fail for me when it comes to open world adventures.  In Fallout 4… I simply did not give a single fuck about the main story arc.  All I wanted to do was explore the world surrounding me and build up the settlement of Sanctuary.  I didn’t care about my baby being stolen, and I most certainly didn’t care about trying to track it down.  The game completely failed at giving me enough motivation to keep moving forward…  however already in Horizon I care… I want to know more about why this world is the way it is and how exactly all of these different pieces that it keeps exposing me to fits together.  Guerrilla games has somehow managed to create an open world with an infused sense of purpose behind everything you are doing…  and I like it… I like it a lot.  I am sure there will be some slow spots… as happens with literally every game but I feel both the desire to keep moving…  but also at the same time the freedom to wander about and explore whenever I want to.  At this point I am super hooked, and am fighting every desire to boot the game up and play some this morning because it would without a doubt make me super late to work.

Aloy and Horsebirbs

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We live in trying times… and what I mean by that is right now there are entirely too damned many great games coming out in a very short period of time.  I was already woefully behind in my progress in literally everything, and when compounded by the fact that I am apparently bingeing the hell out of Final Fantasy XIV you end up with a lot of stuff simply not getting accomplished.  For example… this month the AggroChat game of the month is Final Fantasy XV.  It is in fact MY pick…  but I have been high center in the game for a long time and last night I attempted to fix that.  I kept telling myself that I would only do the main story quest, and that lasted for a little while but not long.  Firstly I wound up bumping into a bunch of ridiculously higher level mobs on the way to my next quest objective.  One of which was freaking Midgardsormr…  just hanging out chilling on the river bank.  When I made a tactical retreat and pushed forward into the cave…  I found that pretty much the mobs inside were also going to kick my ass.  So that means I have hit the wall that my gear and level seems to be able to get me to…  so as the evening went on my purpose seemed to disintegrate and I was once again wandering aimlessly and doing all of the side quests in a vague attempt to catch up level wise.

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Ultimately I am suffering from the exact same problem that I had when we were doing Fallout 4 as a game of the month.  For many of the folks in our podcast…  winning the game is the goal and seeing the story to its conclusion.  For me that really isn’t a thing… and instead I like doing all of the little objectives and inhabiting the world, participating in it.  So in many ways moving the story forward…  defeats that purpose because I keeps moving me past things that I kinda want to get out and roam around and explore.  When it comes to trying to push a game like this…  it ends up making me miserable.  Ultimately I am not going to be even closed to the end of the game when we record the podcast this weekend, and largely I think I am going to be okay with it.  Final Fantasy XV is still one of my favorite games from last night, and I really don’t much care about story spoilers in the first place.  That was never why I was playing the game, and never why it clicked with me.  It clicked because it was finally a Final Fantasy game that embraced my desire to roam around and get off the beaten path…  and then actually rewarded me for doing so.  Now I wish I had been playing the game all of this time, because last night I really enjoyed myself.  However I end up getting caught up in wanting to be around actual living breathing people… and for me that means MMOs.  Getting bit by the Final Fantasy XIV bug hasn’t helped lately either in my push to get everything to 50.  However this is still a game that I am enjoying moving through, albeit slowly.

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The game that is going to be the death of me right now however is Horizon Zero Dawn.  During the mishap with my account and a bunch of others getting compromised on PSN, I ended up getting $50 funded to my Playstation wallet.  They were unable or unwilling to reverse the charges on my credit card, so I had this pot of cash that was sitting there needing to be spent on something.  As a result I ended up pre-ordering Horizon and when I checked my PS4 yesterday morning it had already installed and was simply waiting on the magic moment to launch.  This is going to fall down into the “bel knows better” category… but by now I should have learned not to attempt to play a game at 11pm central when things generally officially launch for me.  However I did this thing… and as a result I wound up getting to bed significantly later than I would have liked.  Also as a result I am groggy as hell sitting down this morning to write this blog post.  That said I need you to marvel at how adorable babby Aloy is…  and that you end up playing as her for a bit and not just through a sequence of cut scenes.  I’ve barely scratched the surface and not even really made it through the tutorial section… and this game already has me hooked in both game play and its world.

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Admittedly this game did not really have to try terribly hard to hook me given its theme.  Awesome bow lady that fights zoids for fun and profit.  What I didn’t expect was just how damned good the controls feel and how responsive combat actually ends up being.  Things have happened already in the story line that I did not expect to happen… and I am super intrigued as to how they end up playing out in the long run.  I don’t want to get too much into my thoughts about story events, because literally the game just unlocked last night and I don’t want to spoil anything really.  What I do find interesting is that so far this game has confirmed my theory about something.  Several years ago I would have told you that I simply did not enjoy playing female characters in games.  I now know that is completely wrong… and I do absolutely enjoy female characters so long as they are the equivalent of the sort of male characters I enjoy.  I like warriors…  I like playing badasses that are armed to the teeth and more importantly armored.  Over the last few years there have been a long list of characters that I have really enjoyed from the modern reboot of Lara Croft, to Zarya in Overwatch, to Sonya in Heroes of the Storm.  Aloy is just another in a long line of these characters that I enjoy playing, and apparently it was never a gender thing…  and just a warrior thing.  I will be anxiously watching the clock today at work, so I can get home and play some more Horizon and see where the game takes me.  I know that Tam stayed up late last night to go ahead and start playing, and he seems to be enjoying it as well.

Falling Crows and Ghost Moose

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This weekend I largely set out to do one sequence of things… but instead of actually accomplishes it I spend a good chunk of the weekend piddling around in the Palace of the Dead.  For those keeping score at home I am on a mission to get all of my classes to 50.  Last week I pushed Summoner/Scholar and Black Mage and as a result this weekend I started in on my Dark Knight in an attempt to shift things up a bit.  Originally I was not super keep in Dark Knight as a tanking class, but I have to say after having played a lot of it during this grind it is definitely growing on me.  Last night while watching Talking Dead I managed to hit level 46 which means I have roughly 8 more runs of floors 51-60 before pushing this class to 50 as well.  Up until around 42 I seemed to still be getting most of a level every single trip into the dungeon, but at that point it shifted to getting roughly half of a level so I guess that is something to note as you push your own characters.  After the Dark Knight I am more than likely going to start up with the Ninja given that it is my next highest class sitting at 38.  That will leave Monk, Astrologian and Machinist…  the later two I still have yet to even accept the introductory quests.  In part I am focused on the goal of 50, because up until that point the levels in PotD seem completely reasonable.  The 50-60 grind however seems to take almost as much time as the 1-50 does, so in theory…  when I actually pick up doing that side of the equation I will begin with my Bard who is already sitting at level 55.

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In other weird weekend news… I apparently am now in the Crowfall pre-alpha?  I talked a bit about it on AggroChat this week, if you are interested in more of my thoughts.  Normally I would be posting a “Crowfall Impressions” post, because that seems to be the sort of thing I do when I get my hands on a new game.  Unfortunately I am not really sure if I have a full post worth of feelings about the game.  It is very alpha for start, so it feels like it isn’t exactly fair to really give the game anything resembling a review.  That said… they are doing an alpha with zero NDA so I feel completely free to at least talk a little about the game.  As I described it to my friends…  Crowfall is in fact a piece of software that I installed and that offers the ability to launch when I click in the patcher.  Past that I am not exactly sure what is going on in the game, and I am not really sure that I felt anything close to fun during the hour and a half that I spent grinding away to make a basic set of armor and weapons.  It doesn’t really feel like there is much game yet, and maybe the murder box that is the PVP servers are more enjoyable.  However based on the apparently cross shard server chat, it sounds like there is just a lot of spawn camping and ganking going on there.  The big challenge I had was that there was simply not much to actually fight in the PVE server, and when I did find a boar or a bizarre crystalline cat my hud would lock up on loot allowing other players to come swoop in and harvest the leather and meat on the thing I just killed.  Right now the game feels less fleshed out than Landmark did when it opened its doors to early access.  It feels like it is trying to do a lot of things but I am not entirely certain if those things blend all that well.

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Now in the “I want my Sunday back” territory…  I logged in yesterday morning to work on my Archaeology questline in World of Warcraft.  Of note… it has been 181 days since the launch of Legion according to the handy google “days since” query ability.  The last two weeks have been the very first occasion to actually complete the Laying to Rest archaeology quest that rewards the Spirit of Echero mount.  The last thing I really wanted to do was go grind arch nodes until I collected 600 moose bones…  but then again I thought to myself if I ever wanted this mount I should probably do it now, since who the hell knows when it will be available again.  I am not really sure how long it took in minutes… but I started watching Sword Art Online again somewhere during the first 100 bones… and I was able to watch three episodes in their entirety and started the fourth before I collected number 600.  It was a slog of a grind, and while I am happy it is done…  it feels like maybe a waste of time given that I am never likely going to ride the mount anyways.  I chock this one up to simple and honest fear of missing out… because if I didn’t get it there might be a version of myself someday that wishes I had.  Regardless it is done, but the second I turned in the quest I stuck around long enough to take the above screenshot and then bolted quickly from the game.  In other happenings at some point during the grind I hit 800 Archaeology so that was at least something cool that happened as well as finishing up the Handle With Care achievement.