Finally Invested

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Sometimes I do not understand my own gaming whims.  In theory I should be logging into Final Fantasy XIV every single night and working on collecting the last bits of stuff I need from Omega, or at the very least trying to cap the latest limited tier of bookrocks.  However instead I am finding myself wandering around in a bunch of different games where I have little to no online gaming community.  I’ve been in pretty deep turtle mode, and as a result I have been dodging other human beings left and right.  I’ve talked about the “spoons” concept in the past, but right now it feels like every last spoon I have is getting used up before I hit the house in the evening.  So what this means is a much higher percentage of passive activities like watching stuff from netflix, and a lower percentage of things like gaming that requires active participation.  Effectively at this very moment I am managing two different teams at work…  one of which my normal crew of developers and the second being a sort of response team to an issue that has been going on.  This is eating up every last drop of my time and attention.  There was one day last week where out of what turned into a 10 hour work day… I had 7 hours worth of meetings…  followed by furious periods of attempting to get anything done.  The glorious lie of being salaried is that in theory you get the same amount of money if you work 4 hours as if you work 40 hours…  but what that means in reality is I have never worked less than 40 hours anywhere I have ever been.  Most weeks I work significantly over because I wind up working through lunch.  Needless to say all of this sustained madness leaves me pretty drained when it comes to interactions with other human beings.  To make matters worse in a short amount of time we will be going through the upheaval that comes when my wife starts back to school for a new semester, and having to double down on my support infrastructure as she adjusts to having to leave the house every day.

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I am not sure if it is due to my current state of mind… or if I have just slowly warmed to the game over time…  but at some point I decided that Guild Wars 2 was apparently something awesome to be playing.  I have a really tenuous past with this game that I won’t go into now because I have talked about it at length in the past on this blog.  At some point however it started to feel decent to run around in this world and have all of these little micro objectives that I could be doing…  without feeling like I was terribly tied to completing any of them.  This week however I for some reason started working on the main story quest yet again… and almost five years after the launch of the game I managed to beat it and have officially entered the “living story” content proper.  I cannot tell you how initially turned off I was on the concept of living story being this limited time thing.  The fact that all I can see from Season 1 is a short montage of the events that happened in it still frustrates the shit out of me.  However the fact that Season 2 and Season 3 are sitting there waiting on me actually gives me some reason to keep moving forward in the game.  There is just a deluge of content available spread across a whole ton of games that I enjoy playing…  and in order for me to keep being interested in a game it needs to sit there waiting on me.  In truth I juggle a bunch of games at once, flipping to whatever game happens to feel good at that very moment.  Recently I have been playing a sizable amount of Rift as well because it similarly is devoid of a social community that I have to worry about interacting with.  I have a feeling that if this turtle keeps up…  I will be revisiting SWTOR and Elder Scrolls Online as well… and in all of those cases I know there will be fresh content patiently waiting on me to return and enjoy it.

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What has kept me engaged thus far in Guild Wars 2 was that the story picked up.  For a long time I thought the main arc was a little nonsense, and it involved a lot of characters that I was not that deeply endeared to largely because they were all dicks to each other.  However at some point the tide turned and I got engaged in the race to discover Orr and uncover its mysteries.  This process kept pushing me into zones I had never seen before, which lead to me wandering around and exploring…  which lead to me doing little side missions and objectives.  What used to feel like an unsatisfying loop…  suddenly felt extremely sticky as I slowly became invested in the game world.  Now I legitimately can say I love this game, and it took a really long time to get there.  For years I didn’t understand why people enjoyed it.  There was a point last year where the AggroChat crew and I did some Fractals… at which point I thought I had understood where the core fun of the game was.  However after spending some more time wandering around it feels like the core fun of the game…  is that there is just so damned much stuff to be doing at any given time.  All of it feels equally rewarding and equally likely to give you something that might be useful.  The difference here is that I am effectively in the same gear I have been wearing for the last few years…  but that the game has given me all sorts of horizontal leveling paths that do everything from increase my mobility…  to simply increasing my luck chance.  The best part of all of this is that a good deal is unlocked at an account level so regardless of which alt I decide to be playing…  I am getting a good deal of the benefit.  How I got around the old world without gliding is beyond me… and I have a feeling with the upcoming expansion once I get the ability to ride mounts I will have a similar feeling.  Another major change is the fact that with the expansion character models…  I can now have a proper beard as you can see me sporting in the first image…  as well as a nifty eye scar.  I am not exactly sure when the turtle will end, but in the meantime I am finding interesting ways to enjoy new worlds.

Why No New AggroChat

This past goes down as one of the more bizarre weekends in a long while.  Those of you who listen to AggroChat are waking up realizing there was no new podcast episode and this is due to some extenuating circumstances.  Saturday for the most part was a pretty chill day, and I had settled into my office to prepare to record.  I was just literally about to start trying to cobble together some semblance of show notes… when I had a knock on the door.  My wife was on the phone with my mother in law and she had been in a wreck out on the turnpike.  Granted this is 9 pm and there was a massive storm bearing down on us, so while my wife offered to go pick her up alone…  I didn’t really want her going out there completely alone especially considering that we knew it would mean a two hour plus long round trip to take her mom home eventually.  I gave my apologies to the AggroChat crew and threw some actual outside style clothing on…  and rushed out the door.  It turned out she was on the Turnpike slowing down to get off at the next exit, when someone hit her from behind.  It came out while sitting on the side of the highway that the guy had been reading a text with cruise control locked in about 80 mph, and when he realized he was coming up fast on her…  he swerved attempting to dodge and only caused his car to spin out and flip…  and then catch on fire.  Thankfully both car loads of people were okay, but this also set in motion a whole string of events.

We dropped mom-in-law off at home and I stopped to get some form of caffeine for the trip back.  It was about when I got back on the turnpike that the skies opened up and began what would ultimately be this massive storm.  Thankfully it remained a pretty chill drizzle until we made it back to town.  Around about midnight thirty we ended up in bed and were both conked out pretty fast.  Our niece lives on property adjacent to where mom-in-law lives… and she agreed to spend the night just to make sure nothing was wrong.  The ambulance had checked her out at the scene of the accident but we were still concerned because when you take an 80 year old person and put them through a pretty severe car wreck…  there is going to be at least some soreness.  Because of this… when we did make it to bed my wife turned her phone up fairly loudly as it sat on the nightstand charging.  Thirty minutes after falling to sleep we were woken up by a weather app on her phone going off and informing us that we were under a thunderstorm warning.  It was around about then that the skies opened with this hurricane style deluge of rain.  We fought through it and attempted to go back to sleep…  when about another thirty minutes afterwards we were awoken again by the same app informing us that we were under a Tornado watch.  Thankfully the area of rotation was not near us and unlikely to come our way…  but it still shifted us into a night of trying to sleep while listening to the television just in case that changed.

Yesterday was a bit of a blur as we sort of slept walked through the day.  After church our niece dropped mom-in-law off at our house, and my wife and her made a trip to go see the car.  Functionally the entire back half of the car is gone…  the trunk is now functionally pushed into the back seat and thankfully no one was back there.  Now Saturday night while on the side of the road my wife attempted to cram everything she could find in one of those giant blue IKEA bags that I keep in the back of my SUV as a just in case…  but then we always forget it is there and wind up buying a new one when we do make it to an IKEA.  However in this case it was super handy, but there were a handful of things that they missed under dark of night that were visible during the light of day.  There is little doubt that the car is going to be totaled, and and at the scene of the wreck the guy confessed to texting while driving so there is going to be zero doubt on whether or not his insurance should cover this.  I feel like this is a not so subtle time to state that this should serve as a reminder why you shouldn’t be futzing with your phone while driving.  Especially not while going 80 on a pretty congested turnpike with limited visibility because a massive storm front was bearing down and blotting out the stars.  The most frustrating part about all of it… is that mom-in-law had no intention of being on the turnpike and was simply there because she missed her turn due to some construction and was trying to find a way to route back to where she needed to be.  All of this is why there is no new AggroChat episode, and why I am still groggy as shit from lack of sleep.  My hope is that tonight I will be far enough removed from the events to be able to get a normal nights sleep, because last night it felt like I didn’t get great sleep either because I was almost too tired to sleep.  The Tornado that blazed through town was rated as an EF2, and I was so groggy yesterday that it did not dawn on me until this morning that I have a few friends in neighborhoods that were in the storm’s path.  So here is hoping they made it through okay.

Last Banana

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It has been a very gaming light week for me, and I wound up heading to bed something like 8:30 or 9 ish which is very much not normal for me.  Functionally I am coming off of a few really rough weeks at work where I have been in firestomper mode 24/7.  As a result I get home and I am just too drained to deal with human beings… or in truth the possibility of human beings.  This is where my “I” streak comes out with a vengence, and it has lead me to play a lot of games in a very low key and solo manner.  Last night however I decided to go ahead and play some Destiny.  Right now the very last Iron Banner before the release of Destiny 2 is going on… and with it the chance to get the sniper rifle and hand canon…  neither of which I have a decent roll for.  Additionally with the thought about going into Destiny 2…  I am finding myself more than a little nostalgic for Destiny 1 at the moment.  I’ve never been one to really work on the book achievements, but I am finding myself doing so at least in a limited fashion.  September 6th begins a new adventure into the Destiny universe… and with it we are leaving behind all of the trappings of the last.  As flawed at times as the original might be… it still very much feels like home.

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The match type for this last Iron  Banner is Control, which is also in part what is pushing me back to play some.  Control is my favorite game mode because it gives me a reason beyond killing other players to be engaged.  Deathmatching was something that I was a fan of when I was in High School… but once I have gotten older I find myself craving some larger objective to be working towards.  While I would love to have role based gameplay along the lines of Enemy Territory…  holding points on a map at least gives me some measure of that core focus.  What ends up happening in truth is that players form what I call a “muderball” and then ping ping back and forth across the map capturing points.  In Destiny 1 this game play is actually to some extent rewarded because the more people you have standing on a point… the faster it shifts to neutral and then to captured.  In Destiny 2 however…  points capture at a fixed rate so it is going to be interesting to see if players actually spend some effort focusing on defense rather than just constantly retaking points.  I saved the above screenshot largely because this was as good as it got last night as far as kill to death ratio.

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As far as a load out…  it just feels like the special weapon slot doesn’t mean much of anything anymore.  The limited amounts of ammunition you get, and the fact that it seems like Invective no longer recharges at a reasonable rate meant that for the most part I was using nothing but primary.  I tried a few things as the evening went on.  At first I had some early success with Oversoul Edict, but as the night went on I wound up breaking out my friend the Genesis Chain.  I’ve never been a huge fan of the Suros aesthetic but I absolutely love this weapon…  especially if you get head shots and trigger the firefly explosion effect.  I love the way that sounds… its like a tiny “fuck yes” as you are running away to find the next engagement.  What cracks me up about me and Destiny… is that I tend to bond with whatever weapon everyone else says that you should just shard.  This lives in an archetype that no one seems to like and is functionally just a better version of “An Answering Chord” that is a available on the Vanguard Quartermaster.  However it just feels better and seems to work better for me than that weapon ever did.  I mean I also love the Fabian Strategy… which is a weapon everyone else seems to hate so my particular tastes seem to consistently go against the meta.  Last night I managed to finish all of my quests from Lady Efrideet, but I have yet to get any weapon drops so I am thinking I might want to go ahead and try and make rank 5 during this final Iron Banner in the hopes of maybe seeing some decent versions of the Hand Cannon along the way.

Top Five Lists Are Hard

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I failed miserably at attempting to do a daily creative thing.  Yesterday was an extremely crappy day on the work front, or at least one that drained every little bit of sanity out of me.  By the time I got home I just wanted to vegetate on the sofa and play some games.  With the announcement of the Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire expansion coming in September, this I am sure rekindled the fires for a lot of folks.  For me personally… its particular un-directed style of roaming aimlessly yet still feeling like you accomplished something was a reasonable fit for the state of mind I happened to be in last night.  It’s funny how my opinions of this game have changed significantly over the years.  While I was in Alpha I was not a fan at all… and this is still the only Alpha program I purposefully resigned from.  In Beta however I started to see some of the merits and played a little bit at launch, however that did not last extremely long.  For years afterwards I was a bit at odds with the game and not really getting what everyone else was seeing in it.  However about a year ago the AggroChat crew all returned and started doing some of the group content and more or less I began to see the merit.  More recently I just find it an excellent source of bite sized entertainment…  which is I think the intended goal all along.  Of the original Guild Wars content, Nightfall was probably my favorite “expansion” that of course wasn’t actually an expansion.  So since Path of Fire is going to be in that same area I am looking forward to this expansion way more than I did Heart of Thorns.  I also find it extremely interesting that they are continuing to give horizontal progression…  which on some level has traditionally bothered me…  but also allows me to not feel left behind each time the game moves forward.  The primary problem there is that I feel so far behind in  the alternate progression paths that I will likely never actually catch up without a serious time investment.

Yesterday a tweet was making its way across my twitterverse and it was interesting seeing everyone’s responses.  The problem however is that I personally have a really hard time narrowing it down to a list of 50…  let alone a list of 5.  I made an effort to do so… then as soon as I posted it came up with half a dozen other alternates that potentially could have bounced the titles I listed from contention.  When I look at an “of all time” list I tend to think of things in terms of long term replay-ability as well as the overall experience I had playing the game.  Namely can I pick this title up today and still play it with the same level of joy that I had when I originally played the game.  This means there is a significant number of titles from the PS1 and PS2 eras that are just dead to me without the introduction of a remaster or remake.  We’ve experienced this several times in the AggroChat game club as we attempted to relive a title from the past only to find it doesn’t live up to our modern expectations for how a game should behave.  So here is the list of games that I managed to whittle down to on impulse yesterday.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

This is the only game that is pretty much universally always going to be my number one slot…  until something dethrones it.  I love everything about this game from the art style to the music to the level design.  I have this title in the original PS1 release, Sega Saturn, PSP, PS3, PS Vita, and Xbox 360 versions.  To the best of my knowledge this means I own it on pretty much every platform it has been released on… and truthfully I can happily keep playing this over and over.  About once a year I seem to boot it up and play through it… and I am secretly hoping that the Switch gets a release at some point.

Fallout New Vegas

I waffled on this one a bit because I like ALL of the modern Fallout games… but personally I feel like New Vegas is the best version so far.  It has everything I liked about Fallout 3 but includes a much better overarching storyline.  At release this was rife with all manner of bugs… but over time through official and unofficial patches it has reached an extremely solid state and is one of those games I can still boot up at any time and return to happily.

Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

This for me is always likely going to be the pinnacle of the Legend of Zelda franchise.  Its Zelda at its most Zeldaish, and again this is one of those games that I can keep playing over and over.  I remember this also being one of the first times I was completely shocked by a World 2 transition, in thinking I had almost beat the game…  and then finding out that maybe I had finished a fifth of it.  What I love the most is just how much stuff lies just slightly off the path and is not really required to beat the game.

Dragon Age: Origins

There are times I would like to say that I love the Dragon Age franchise…  but in truth I really just love Dragon Age: Origins.  I have significant problems with Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition, and I just can’t ever seem to get anywhere near as engaged as I did the first time.  The thing is… it isn’t actually the first time because I have continued to successfully return to this world and play it over and over.  The Grey Warden storyline beats every storyline they have come up with to date in every possible way… and I just want to keep reliving that character and experience.  Additionally this was my Gateway drug into Mass Effect because if I did not love this game… I probably never would have given that franchise a second shot.

Mass Effect 2

Linked to the one above…  Mass Effect 2 is the pinnacle of the series for me personally.  It does the most things I want from Mass Effect which is honestly the “away mission” feel that you have in this game.  In part I think Andromeda does a good job of recapturing this feeling, but the second game in the series will always hold a special place in my heart because it is the game that made me fall in love with this setting.  I bounced pretty hard off of the PC port of Mass Effect because of the fairly cludgy interface, but after absolutely loving Dragon Age… and finding out that ME2 was going to be using that engine I gave the game a second shot.  What I found was this rich world that ultimately caused me to go back and suffer through the first game so I could experience more of it.  I love everything about this game from the recruitment of interesting characters, to ominous baddies… and even more ominous allies.

More Games

The moment I hit send I had a flood of other titles that really should have been included, and as a result I am just going to run through a few of these without delving into them.  Regardless this is an extremely difficult exercise, because how do you condense over thirty five years of gaming into a single list of five.

  • Destiny
  • Diablo 3
  • Final Fantasy VI
  • Super Mario World
  • Knights of the Old Republic
  • Planescape Torment
  • Super Metroid
  • Phantasy Star IV
  • Guardian Heroes
  • Rivercity Ransom
  • Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo
  • Mortal Kombat II
  • World of Warcraft
  • Hellgate London
  • Wolfenstein New Order
  • Doom II
  • Minecraft
  • Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2
  • Thomas Was Alone

and honestly…  the moment I hit post I will think of several dozen more than deserve to be on the list.  Basically this is a really hard thing to do for me.

A Warm Blanket

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Today marks the beginning of the whole “Daily Creative Thing” business and while you might have been expecting something from me…  unfortunately you can’t really expect me to get up and do creativity by six in the morning.  Sitting down and writing out a blog post is challenging enough.  I am however planning on making something happen today or tonight depending upon when the muse hits me.  The other big thing going on today is that it is my Nineteenth wedding anniversary, and while I am not entirely certain what we are doing to mark the occasion yet I am sure we will come up with something.  In truth what it will probably mean is that my wife and I go out to dinner, and then wander around hitting the various stores and checking to see if they have started marking down their back to school stuff yet.  “School Supply Season” is like Christmas for my wife, and while this is not exactly the normal thing for people to get excited about…  it is for a teacher.  I’ve spent many an hour over the years scrounging for one last folder or ruler or package of gluesticks for her classroom.

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Work is still madness and I am still finding myself deep in the throes of turtle mode.  Honestly more than anything what happens during these times is I resort to comfort gaming.  I end up dusting off a game that I had not been playing that much and spend a significant chunk of time roaming around its world.  Lately that has meant an awful lot of Rift because much like Phantasy Star Online yesterday… I carry a significant torch for this game as well.  In honor of the occasion I decided to vary up my default wardrobe a bit from what I had been running around in the first screenshot… to what I am now running around in…  which is honestly mostly just some dye and swapping a few pieces.  I never managed to hit the “Prophecy of” level cap and I’ve just been working my way through any of the content that I had left to do in various zones.  So far the thing that I am liking the most about the content is the way that each zone has this major event that takes place at the very end of the zone that ties up a bunch of loose threads from various quests and packages it neatly in this really epic fight.  In many ways Rift feels like a game from a different time, and this has both good and bad aspects to it.  The bad is it feels much slower than other MMOs and the time to kill and time to level can feel a little grating at times.  However on the good side this is also this same thing that makes it feel familiar and lived in…  and something that I can return to over and over to wear it like a blanket.  The main problem that I have with Rift that ultimately causes me to wander away is that I don’t have my social infrastructure here.  My circle of friends that I record the podcast and game on a nightly basis with…  have moved on past this game and will likely never return.  At this point I think I am just too set in my ways to branch out and build new communities, and I also know that I will soon return to the fold and wander away from the game myself.

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Another game I have been playing a not insignificant amount of is Fallout 4.  This runs pretty damned smoothly on the laptop and it has been a recent go to for when I want to wander around a world and explore a bit.  In the theme of carrying torches for games… I have loved Fallout since I saved up my pennies to buy the first game when it released back in 1997.  I was going to college at the time and not really buying many games, but still made a beeline to Walmart to pick it up once I knew they had it in stock.  Side note… that was literally the only place in town that sold PC games and was before the mass expansion of Game Stop.  At that point Software Etc and Babbages still existed as separate entities as well as Comp USA and the unrelated Circuit City and Computer City.  When the games made the tradition to the open world format I was skeptical but quickly got on board thanks to my love of the Elder Scrolls games.  Now the modern Fallout games serve as this familiar touchstone that I can keep returning to anytime I need solace.  I’ve started countless games of Fallout 3 and New Vegas and it seems like now I am carrying that tradition over into Fallout 4 as well.  My default play mode tends to be to wander towards a corner of the map and do whatever happens to be there.  I am not really big for following larger quests in this game, and I likely would have never actually beaten it were it not for the fact that we chose this as a game club game… and I felt obligated to do so.  Gaming in general for me is not ever really about beating the game… but more about existing in that game world for a period of time.  The game world of choice is determined by whatever mood I happen to be in.  Fallout for me tends to be for when I am in a slower paced mood and want to wander around aimlessly dispensing frontier justice on the raiders.

 

Burning Torch

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There are a lot of games that I hold a torch for…  even when they are long dead and gone.  Specifically I am looking at you Hellgate London… that I will always have a significant amount of love for.  However another of those titles is Phantasy Star Online.  This is ultimately what I consider to be my first MMO, or at the very least the gateway drug that opened me up to the possibilities of Everquest.  The Dreamcast is a special console for me, and in large part it is due to this game.  I spent many a weekend afternoon dialed into SegaNet with the 56k modem and eventually upgraded to the “broadband adapter” and running a 50 ft network cable out of my office and around the edge of the loft so I could partake of this title at my then DSL speeds.  I even went so far as to purchase a weird controller adapter that among other things had a PC PS/2 port that allows me to connect a keyboard so that I could communicate more easily with other players while running group content.  I played a RAcast, which was the giant robot ranger character…  which is probably why I have so damned much fondness for Exo’s in Destiny.  Because of just how hard the various mobs hit… I found playing a sword wielding Hunter class to be awkward and involved way too much dancing in and out of melee range just barely not getting hit.  Ranger on the other hand could absolutely abuse the fact that mobs would turn back around when you encountered a gate between areas…  and I would sit at the space between zones and effectively “kite” the mobs until they were dead.

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For awhile I have known about unofficial community run servers for Phantasy Star Blue Burst the PC release of the game that came out in 2003.  However with the one I had messed with before, the game felt not completely functional in some way.  The controls were wonky, and the servers felt laggy.  However I heard there was a much better experience in the form of the Ephinea Private server.  I never quite know where whims come from… but suddenly this weekend I was hitting the page and downloading the client.  Firstly the experience of getting into the game is much better than the version I had messed with before, that involved downloading the game via a large torrent.  This instead is a fairly slim roughly 650 meg installer.  From there it boots into a menu system that features its own built in patcher, so there has been a significant amount of time spent making this as good of an experience as is possible.  The client also seems to support a whole slew of modern resolutions and some advanced options for a higher resolution HUD, all of which was missing from the version I played a few years back.  Reading the FAQ on the website you can see that they have made a significant number of tweaks to improve overall game play experience like giving all of your characters a shared bank.  What is also interesting is that there are three seperate rulesets that are supported:  Normal, Hardcore and Sandbox.  The second being much more difficult but having much better drop rewards, and the later being a pseudo “admin mode” that allows players to summon up items and such.  For the time being however I have simply been playing on Normal mode while I get used to the game again.

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It is funny just how fast the game has come back to me, and even though my Fusion Pro Controller is nothing like a Dreamcast Controller…  I have managed to adjust to the differences rather rapidly.  In truth there is not a lot of deep strategy going on in this game other than the rhythm of landing a triple hit attack…  which I remembered pretty quickly and have been abusing since.  Ultimately I probably wouldn’t suggest downloading the game unless you are in one of two camps.  Firstly this is awesome for those of us who played the game back when this was literally better than anything out on the market, and want a trip down memory lane.  Secondly this is awesome for anyone who completely missed the boat on Phantasy Star Online and would like to at least see what the game was like.  In both of those cases it will provide some enjoyment, but for anyone expecting a modern experience…  you should probably keep on moving.  I’ve talked about this before, but there is an era in gaming where the ability to play online with others… especially from a console was the central feature of the game and any other details were by nature secondary.  While the core gameplay loop is still enjoyable to me personally… it won’t be for many especially considering how slow paced the game is and how cludgy the targeting system can be.  A good bit of my love of Destiny is likely because Phantasy Star Online was my first “looter shooter”.  I ran around with a rifle wielding RACast and shot things until they dropped boxes of loot… that I then either equipped or took back to the Tekker to identify the item.  Master Rahoul has nothing on the disappointment the Tekkers used to bring us when that weapon we have trudged up from the bowels of  Ruins 3 turns out not to be the upgrade we were looking for.  If you too want a trip down memory lane however… I suggest you check out Ephinea and their awesomely tweaked version of the PC Phantasy Online Star Blue Burst client.

Assorted Turtling

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Yesterday was an exceedingly stressful day, and that combined with the fact that my wife is out of town…  lead to a sudden bout of turtling.  For those unfamiliar with the nomenclature…  I go through these periods where I feel like I need to pull my head into my shell to attempt to remain sane.  I’m thankful that I have a few friends that get it, and don’t give me too much hassle about it, but every so often I just reach this point where I need to disconnect from humanity.  Last night was one of those nights and I cycled restlessly through a whole bunch of games to see if I could find something that would fit well enough to pass the evening in.  The negative is that in theory this should have been a night I was tanking in Final Fantasy XIV, but I just could not handle communicating with others…  or having anyone I cared about relying on me.  The irony is that I wound up for a bit early in the evening in Destiny…  and absolutely wound up carrying two other players hard through a random strike.  I took a screenshot not because it is impressive…  but because it shows the massive difference between my participation and that of the other two.  This was on the Wretched Eye strike… and I wound up kiting the Ogre… and DPSing most things down…  and resurrecting the other two people constantly.  Now I know what Squirrel and Jex feel like when I run with them.

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From there I wound up back downstairs and watched the last episode of Handmaid’s Tale…  which is maybe not the best idea to watch when you are already feeling depressed.  While doing so I ended booting up Rift and playing around some there.  I am still level 67 and working on the Gedlo Badlands, which is not exactly my favorite zone so far.  Moonshade Highlands is my jam, and I have never been that big of a fan of desolate desert landscapes…  especially not ones where everything is on fire.  That said I did make a lot of progress knocking out various quests and while it still feels like my experience bar isn’t really moving…  the constant ding of planar levels seems to help the feeling of being mired.  I have been running around with a heavy Warlord hybrid build, and while I have been absent it seems to have been buffed significantly.  Previously I had a lot of problems with struggling to kill a given mob in time before it killed me.  Now I seem to be able to run around and wreck things pretty safely.  My biggest complaint with Starfall Prophecy now Prophecy of Ahnket… are the legendary morphs of abilities.  Each of them seems to read like it is going to be universally better than the original…  but after taking a few of them they seem to FEEL worse.  The biggest problem here is that you cannot undo them without paying for a respec…and then you have to remember what the hell you chose as a spec down to the point where you screwed up and chose the wrong legendary morph.  Personally I think the system should just be a toggle, and that you can have X number of legendaries toggled on equal to the number you have earned.

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I also played a little Secret World Legends, which is something I seem to do just about every day… or at the very least I am logging in to get the rewards.  I am not completely sold on the game but I am enjoying it enough to keep showing up and experiencing it.  The combat feels fresh enough to make going through a bunch of quests I did long long ago feel worth it.  My key complaint however is the game still does a piss poor job of clearly identifying which quests you have completed and which ones you have not.  That was one of my biggest problems with the game is to log in and roam around through a sea of cutely named quests… that all sort of blend together in my head making it impossible to sort out if I have or have not completed them.  This was even worse when it came to expansion content going into the game, and blending in among all of those other quests that I did a year ago.  So far blade and elemental is fun enough, but I find myself really missing the shotgun… and with the way gear levels up in this game I feel like I am really not in a great place to switch gears at any point soon.  I do have an extremely low level shotgun sitting in my inventory and I might try swapping it out at some point soon just to see if it is viable.  I’ve moved on to the Savage Coast but there is honestly still a lot in Kingsmouth that I have never really gotten around to completing.  My biggest complaint overall is as compared to the original… the drop rates of anything meaningful in the world is nonexistent.  All of your gear seems to come from lootbags gained through doing quests… so I have a feeling that a big part of the “endgame” is going to be repeating quests on the daily reset to get more stuff to fuse into your gear.  That doesn’t really bode well for those players that are not a big fan of grindy mechanics.

 

Daily Creative Thing

No Blaugust

It’s been ages since I have done a heading in my blog, but I didn’t really have an image I wanted to put with this.  Considering it is getting dangerously close to August and I have had a few people ask me…  I will not be hosting some large Blaugust event this year.  For three and a half years I did my blog every day thing, and it was interesting.  In that process I learned a lot about myself and a lot about my readers.  However I am no longer the bastion of regular blogging that I once was, and similarly I don’t really feel like I can carry the banner of “blog every day” quite so highly.  Now the truth is Blaugust was never really “my” thing…  firstly because there was another group that had independently been using that hashtag for ages apparently.  Secondly the “festival” for lack of a better terms was more about the community than it ever was about me.  So if you find yourself really wanting to do Blaugust, then go for it.  This has been the year that the institutions have failed in the blogosphere.  We had no Newbie Blogger Initiative and would not have had Developer Appreciate Week were it not for Rav picking up the torch and carrying it onwards.  I hate that I am adding Blaugust to the pile but I am just not feeling it right now, and in truth wasn’t last year because I did a fairly halfassed job of trying to make it happen without requiring a lot of support.

If someone is interested in picking up the mantle and making it theirs… I welcome you with open arms.  That said what is happening this year that is not exactly Blaugust but similarly themed is “Daily Creative Thing”.  My good friend Grace felt like she was not taking the time to do creative stuff anymore, and had let some of her hobbies fall by the wayside.  As such in the spirit of Blaugust she decided to start trying to force herself to do at least one creative thing every single day.  What classifies as a “Creative Thing” is pretty open to interpretation, but as a side effect of this process she spawned a secondary blog where you can see a bit of her daily process.  Some days it has been a drawing, others working on some crocheting, and one day some origami.  The purpose being just to keep doing something interesting and fun and creative every single day… and then posting the product.  I myself am contemplating doing this throughout the month of August, because there are a lot of creative things that I just stopped doing for some reason along the way.  Namely I just don’t sketch like I used to, and I am not entirely sure why I stopped.  I used to be one of those kids that was rabidly sketching in every single class…  and then at some point I just stopped.  Its like going to art school some how tarnished the fun… because instead of going and drawing goofy things… everything was deadly serious and representative.  I would love to unblock myself and let the creativity flow once more, so maybe this is the time to do it.

 

Minuet 42

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A few days ago I said I had more or less “beat” the Destiny 2 beta in part because there is so little to actually do in it.  That said for whatever reason I keep returning and playing.  Since writing my initial post I have done the strike several times and spend a bit more time in the Crucible.  Some of my initial comments about not really liking the 4 vs 4 format and the small map sizes, is in part me likely just getting adjusted to changes and not really having a weapon load-out that I would have preferred.  Traditionally my crucible build has been an Auto Rifle in the primary slot… usually my extreme stability Haakon’s Hatchet or if I am feeling squirrely…  my Genesis Chain.  From there I generally have either a Shotgun in the secondary slot Invective or Party Crasher +1 or I go for one of my Fusion Rifles…  traditionally Saladin’s Vigil.  The heavy slot varies greatly because in truth… I am not really expecting to get heavy ammo in Crucible matches so I am not super concerned.  If I have an exotic slot available I go with Gjallarhorn and if not probably my Silvered Dread machine gun.  The problem with the Destiny 2 weapon loadouts is that on my preferred class… the Titan there was nothing that I could really replicate this feel with so I in part had to feel out what worked for me in the new scheme.

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What finally ended up feeling good and seeming usable is to run a Submachine Gun in my primary slot, namely The Showrunner seen above.  However in truth I was using this weapon much in the same way as I would have used a secondary in Destiny 1 only swapping to it at certain times.  For my main weapon I relied heavily on the Minuet Hand Cannon sitting in my energy weapon slot, because it had some significant stopping power and actually allowed me to win non-teamshot firefight engagements.  Where the sub machinegun was handy is any time that someone ran up on me, I could hang out just outside of melee range and grind them down with a rapid fire hail of bullets.  In theory I think this is more or less what folks who loved the sidearm used to do…  but I never could make sidearms work for me in this fashion.  As far as the heavy/power weapon slot…  once again I didn’t care too terribly much about this given that I was similarly not expecting to ever get ammunition for it…  so instead just relied on the grenade launcher in case I ever did.  I am by no means “good” at the new Crucible, but I managed to find a setup and style that worked for me and I managed to keep climbing higher in my efficiency number as the night went on.

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The thing that I find the most impressive about the Destiny 2 demo experience… is the fact that it is so damned short yet I kept returning day after day to keep experiencing it in any way that I could.  In part it has made me want to actually dig in and try and finish some of the book achievements that are sitting there unfinished, and bask in the glory of the Destiny 1 experience before it is gone.  All in all I am anxiously awaiting the release of this game and even more so the upcoming PC beta that we are getting at some point in August.  I have a lot of concerns relating to the PC version, namely how it is going to feel and how well it plays in my various systems.  I am really hoping that I can figure out a set of tweaks to get it to play with passable performance on my i7 Geforce 960m laptop.  I am not expecting the world and would be completely fine with running 720p on it…  pending that the performance is at a minimum 30 fps.  One moment of sadness last night however is that the left thumb stick on  beloved Hori FPS Plus controller started tearing.  I am seemingly particularly hard on left thumb sticks, and as Squirrel pointed out last night…  since it is not our aiming stick we are way less gentle with it.  I ordered a set of cheapo aftermarket thumb stick caps, hoping that maybe just maybe it will fit.  I tried one of the Kontrol Freaks PS4 caps that I had laying around and it kept popping off because the slightly smaller than normal size.  All in all though I am going to be really sad to see Destiny 2 beta ending tonight, but will be looking forward to actually getting to play  the game at launch.

 

Discarded Hulk

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I know I have started out many a Monday post with something along the lines of it being a weird weekend, so I am going to refrain from doing so today.  The odd factor comes from the fact that we were pretty busy… but also mostly busy around the house.  I’ve talked about my wife who is a teacher several times in the past, but one of the side notes that you need to know is that teachers here in Oklahoma have very little support for all of the things that are required to make a classroom work.  My wife for example gets a $25 credit…  per school year to buy anything she needs for her classroom from what is in effect the school district storehouse.  Most teachers don’t even get that…  so we spend a lot of time doing things in an effort to augment her classroom experience.  Anecdote aside… how this factors into our weekend is that for years we have had what is effectively a office work group printer that I happened to adopt when a workplace was sending it out to salvage.  They were more than happy to have me truck it away…  instead of having to pay some electronic recycling people to come and do the same thing.  I was trying to figure out about when we got the Laserjet 5si…  and to the best of my knowledge I would guess around 2005-2006 ish.  The piece of this that you need to understand is that it was effectively a 23 inch by 23 inch by 23 inch cube that weighed about 150 lbs.  It effectively sat in the corner of my office taking up tons of space…  and any time there was a paper jam I had to try and balance the unit while turning it around because it was way too big to actually get to the back side without doing so.  The other thing you need to know is… that there are several times a year where my wife will print up to a ream of paper worth of materials for her classroom in a single evening.  So it is simply not cost effective to try and do that with a consumer grade laser printer.

This week the computer she had in her office finally gave up the ghost, which is not terribly surprising given that it was an ancient Gateway FX P6831 laptop circa 2008.  So like always this lead us to craigslist to see what all was available in our area on the cheap.  While we didn’t really find anything, given that our craigslist seems to be entirely made up of laptops and custom built rigs that someone overpaid for… and still thinks is extremely valuable.  However in her travels she happened upon a reasonable looking printer that in theory could replace the mammoth beast and give us some more desk space.  It turns out a company was surplussing all of their HP Laserjet P3005 printers and we were able to pick up a relatively low print volume printer for $40.  This however left us with the daunting task of moving the beast downstairs…  something that I am shocked I was able to do by myself years ago…  I know at the time it involved using an office chair as a makeshift handtruck and then slowly lifting it a single stair at a time.  Thankfully I am much older and wiser… and simply opted to remove the two addon printer trays, duplexer and toner cartridge which turned it into something that was way more manageable for us to get downstairs.  This left me room to set up the new printer, and also coincidentally gave me room enough for the Canon Pixma MG3620 color printer that I picked up off Amazon for $30 a week or so back.  Which means for the first time in probably a decade we have a reasonable color printing option.  However the directions that came with the printer…  were for a completely different model and it only took me a couple of hours of trying to set things up in vain for me to realize this fact and to grab the correct directions from the Canon website.  Unlike past wireless printers… you cannot apparently set it up over USB and then set its wireless credentials…  you instead need to do some bullshit mobile phone set up process.  However once I got the correct directions it went pretty smoothly.

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This was just one vignette of the random stuff we did this weekend, and most of it isn’t really worthy of writing about.  However now we have the mammoth printer sitting in our living room because the person who had said they wanted it…  backed out when they realized just how damned big it was.  Thinking about sitting it out on the porch one day and posting a “free” craigslist post to see if anyone will come get it.  I would love to give it to a school or a church or a non-profit agency because it still prints insanely well… and the toner has gotten to the point where you can get it for like $20 in the secondary market and it will print something along the lines of 60,000 copies off that single toner.  Until then however the cats think they have a new toy and one of them has taken to periodically laying on it.  As far as gaming goes…  I largely played Diablo 3 and with significant help from friends am nearing the point where I get my pet in the seasons journey.  Right now I am on a more annoying objective step which involves running bounties until I get five jewelry patterns, which will then unlock the last few pieces of the Rathma necromancer set.  After a few seasons of playing Demon Hunters…. everything feels slow…  but the Necro in particular feels extremely slow when pushing Rifts and Greater Rifts.  Getting the two piece weapon set has greatly improved this but it still feels slower than I am used to even when being drug behind a much much higher leveled friend.  All in all though the Necromancer is still insanely fun, but as we talked about this weekend… I am curious how many previously devoted Witch Doctor players have made the swap to Necromancer permanently.