Mixed Feelings

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This morning like so many mornings I have been feeling largely uninspired in my attempt to find something to write about.  In Star Wars the Old Republic I am in an odd space of doing some miscellaneous clean up before moving on to the Knights of the Fallen Empire content.  This is enjoyable but not exactly the sort of thing that makes a good blog post because it doesn’t necessarily reveal anything worth mentioning.  As a result I have spent way too much time looking at twitter, and almost like a miracle a tweet came across my timeline.  It seems that Secret World Legends is releasing on June 26th, which is admittedly way sooner than I was expecting.  It seems like it literally just went into beta about a month ago, which means one of two things.  One either the beta has gone so amazingly well that they are moving up their time tables… or two that they were always going to launch on the 26th regardless of what happened in testing.  Admittedly I have a lot of mixed feelings about this game relaunching.

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I have a lot of love for The Secret World…  but much in the same way as you might love that one movie you saw back in your childhood that you through was really damned cool and remember fondly as a sequence of memories.  It will probably always be one of the best story driven MMO experiences I have had.  They also did some interesting things with the deck building style ability system that let you mix and match actives and passives until you crafted a character that fit your specific play style.  For example I fell in love with Blades/Shotgun which was this amazingly fun build with a mix of ranged and melee abilities that let me adapt to pretty much any open world situation.  The problem being that these extremely custom builds all fell completely apart when you entered the end game.  The game saw every single one of my circle of friends, having to abandon whatever path they were on to choose something new and group friendly to be able to even start to make a dent in the nightmare content.  This is the point where most of us checked out, because we loved being whatever character fantasy we had built for ourselves…  and having to abandon that just ruined the game experience.

All of that said… my twitter time line is full of moments when I broadcast the game out to my friends in an effort to get everyone to experience it.  Each time it went on sale I talked about how good of a deal it was.  I love the setting and I love the challenge of some of the quests that force you to figure out how to do silly things like decode things from base 64 encoding.  In the trailer above they talk about switching the game from an MMO to a shared world action RPG…  which largely sounds like marketing nonsense.  They are switching the game to be reticle targeting, which can be a positive if all of the movement and interaction keys work nicely with it.  In many ways this could be an attempt to make it a more console friendly design, because that sort of a control scheme seems to simply work better with a controller than it does with mouse and keyboard.  All of the individual weapons seem to have a mini game aspect.  About a month ago Elemental was shown off on the dev stream to have a “heat” mechanic that you are trying to keep in check.  This makes me wonder however how well custom builds like my beloved Blades and Shotgun will work in this scenario.  Will we have to choose a single weapon and stick to that?

Mostly I think I am going to have to fall into the “wait and see” camp at least until I get my hands on the game.  I want it to work well, because I would really love to see a game like The Secret World succeeding.  It did a lot of interesting things that no one else is still doing, and presented a game setting that is unique and interesting.  The big problem however is all of that interesting bits came in a package that never quite worked as well as I thought it should.  The user interface was always a bit of a disaster that you learned out to work around, rather than something that really reinforced the enjoyment of the game.  Similarly the combat was scattered with a bunch of really great ideas that never quite coalesced into something that felt really good to play.  There were elements of sheer brilliance, but those were what helped you get past all of the things that you found yourself barely tolerating.  My ultimately hope is that with Secret World Legends they can go back and fix all the bits that never quite worked right, and then arrange the copious amounts of story they already have into a cohesive narrative.  If they can do that and give me fun moment to moment play…  then without a doubt I will be playing a lot more Secret World in the near future.  They are however launching during a super tight window following ESO Morrowind on the 6th and FFXIV Stormblood on the 20th.  That fact means without a doubt that while I might be playing this game… it is not going to even come close to being a primary game for me.

Legacy Complete

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This weekend was yet another almost entirely devoted to playing Star Wars the Old Republic.  I tend to exist in one of two modes, either I am playing a bunch of different games casually or in “maintenance mode” or I imprint super hard on a single game and I clamp down on it until I run out of stuff that I want to be doing.  SWTOR seems to be in one of those clamp down modes, because I am playing it with an almost single minded focus.  I set out with a goal of finishing off the eight original storylines, and this weekend I managed to push the agent across the finish line.  As you can see I now have all eight icons lit up on the left side of the character select screen.  What is interesting is just how much overlap there are between the different classes.  You might hear a name mentioned in one class briefly that ends up being a central focus character in another.  With the Agent especially it felt like we were getting the secret story of the world being played out through our actions, and it was all the more real when I slid from that story into Shadows of Revan.  This is a minor spoiler but functionally the events foretold in the Agent sequence are coming to fruition by the Revanites…  which makes me feel like the Star Cabal was just one of so many other puppets in the setting.

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Makeb was largely interesting content, but it also felt like content added in a minor story patch in other games.  It was this side mission that didn’t really move the overall story forward by much.  Sure it was another chance to dust off your team mates and go on one more adventure… but it largely felt like one completely disconnected to everything else in the game.  While enjoyable I stalled out in part because I had the other goal to worry about and lots of class storylines to play before that twelve times bonus went away.  I wish however two years ago I had stuck around long enough to play through the Shadow of Revan campaign because I think the game as a whole would have had a good deal more traction for me.  Shadow of Revan and now Ziost feels more like what I had been wanting.  While it is taking part in a corner of the Galaxy and involves a brand new cast of characters…  there is continuity happening and all of my actions seem to actually matter once again.  Again you can absolutely see that it was design in a way so that it is stand alone DLC, but it feels like it integrates into the theme considerably better.

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I am wondering if I might be attached to Star Wars the Old Republic until the release of Stormblood at this point.  I have all of Ziost, which I am assuming is a fairly small addendum to the Revanite story.  Then I have the entire Fallen Empire campaign and finally the Eternal Throne campaign to keep me tied up for awhile.  I am figuring one of two things is going to happen when I start Fallen Empire, and in part that is why I have been avoiding actually starting it.  Either I am going to love it and tear through it hungrily until I catch up completely.  The other option is that I am going to bounce hard in Galaxy 2.0.  Either case I can only delay the inevitably so long, but I will be doing like I did in Mass Effect Andromeda… and trying to finish everything up completely before flipping the switch.  Side note… while staring at the above image I never noticed that my starship looks like it has a bubble level on the front.  Mostly I want to experience the world as it exists… before changing it completely.

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Some other side notes from the weekend.  The experience boost is absolutely insane because I was roughly 1/3rd of the way through Shadows of Revan when I hit the modern level cap of 70.  That means I have been getting functionally end game gear as I level through the content.  With Knights of the Eternal Throne they added in a new Galactic Command system… that in truth I don’t fully understand.  However it appears to be an alternate leveling system, and each time you kill something or complete a quest… you earn command points.  Every so often you go up a level, and this process includes earning a command chest.  These so far have been an excellent source of orange mod gear, and also occasionally a blue or purple item that blows away anything I have been capable of getting thusfar.  Another thing that I am digging heavily is that it seems like I can enter every flashpoint in “story mode” which allows me to complete the flashpoint solo with the help of an extremely overpowered robot buddy.  These flashpoints however also seem to drop current gear instead of the level of the encounter which surprised me just a little bit.  Whatever the case it feels like I am getting to chase down all these story bits, and at the same time be rewarded with lots and lots of gear.  Thusfar I am pretty happy with the way the systems all seem to be working.

Destiny 2 Hopes

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Even though I am playing playing much of it this very moment…  Destiny holds an extremely special place in my heart.  I love this game and I love what it has become over the course of the two expansions… and multiple content patches.  They promised a setting as deep and rich and Star Wars, and while a lot of people will disagree with me…  I feel that they ultimately delivered on that.  The problem however is that they did not deliver in a contiguous story that was easy to learn.  Instead they sprinkled the game with environmental storytelling and nuggets of information that the faithful had to gather up and piece together to learn what was happening in the world.  Personally this made me want to know more about the world because each time I uncovered a truth it was like discovering another piece that fit into a giant puzzle I was trying to assemble in my head.  For many others however… including the vast majority of my friends…  they bounced hard.  For them it was of the utmost importance to have a clear narrative that they could follow, and not be forced to do some admittedly silly nonsense in the form of the grimoire cards.

Fix the Narrative

The first hope with Destiny 2 is to do just that… give us this big bold epic space opera that you originally promised.  Like I said it is absolutely there.. . but buried deep under the surface and in places that only the most lore hungry can find.  There is an epic tale in the game, but you have to piece it together through doing things…  and it never actually gives you any sort of threaded tale that you can then experience as a whole when you do finish gathering the pieces.  I’ve linked the Book of Sorrow as read by Myelin games… one of the best Destiny Lore channels available.  For those who are unfamiliar with it, each time you collected a Calcified Fragment on the Dreadnaught or one of the Taken related raids/missions in the Taken King expansion you unlocked a piece of the Book of Sorrow.  Combined together they make a five part tale explaining who the Hive are and where they came from… and how exactly the Taken came to be.  The problem is… were it not for lore videos like this one…  this is an epic tale that would stay submerged and largely unknown.  Bungie, you can craft amazing tales…  just present them in a manner that the common player can grasp them.

A Larger Sense of Presence

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Destiny is a game that constantly teases us with vistas we will never be able to explore.  A prime example of this is that we as Guardians inhabit a Tower overlooking the last city on earth.  We are told this time and time again… and if you look off the balcony you can see what appears to be a thriving city below in the shadow of the traveler.  However we can never actually go down there and explore the area where all the lights seem to be bright.  When we travel to a planet, instead of being able to explore its surface freely we are given a single path that loops around and connects to itself.  The hallmark of MMOs is that you can go walking in a direction and more often than not reach whatever it is that you can see in the distance.  To some extent I want to see this happening in Destiny 2.  I want to find neat hidden areas of the world with interesting spawns or treasures.  I want exploration to be a factor in the game, rather than just being somewhere at the right time when the right event fires off.  With the Dead Ghosts, Calcified Fragments, and SIVA Clusters…  you can tell they want to give us this sort of exploration already.  However I just want to see this done on a much larger scale with hidden lairs, that are a challenge to get to… but also extremely rewarding for completing with your friends.

Item Drops

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I think everyone at least on some level likes looking out and surveying the scene and seeing a bunch of green, blue, purple and sometimes orange engrams laying there on the ground.  The novelty however wears off quickly, and when I am in an area like the Archon’s Forge I know that every so often I am going to have to return to the tower and do some inventory maintenance since you can only have twenty items in your mailbox…  before you start losing loot.  What ends up happening as a result is that players just straight up delete engrams, so that they can stay out longer.  Later patches in the game even implemented a system so that when you pick up a green engram it automatically disassembles into the respective parts.  This tells me that they release that the engram system is deeply inconvenient, and since later items like hoard chests drop actual items…  I think they see the error of their ways.  What I want from Destiny 2 is the ability for actual gear drops like they do in the raids and from item chests.  That way I know if the item is useful instantly without having to go back to base and get a decryption.  This serves a bunch of purposes…  namely that you can then start using gear if it is an upgrade or something interesting.  Secondly you can keep clearing your inventory without having to worry about getting that rare chance of something good dropping from a blue engram.

All Infusion All The Time

One of the things that Destiny eventually nailed is the item system.  The funny thing about it is that I sort of wish all games had the item infusion system that we have now.  So my hope is that Destiny 2 just manages not to fuck this up.  Leave it alone… keep things exactly as they are now.  Let us infuse gear into items we already have in our inventory, and keep upgrading the weapons we like using.  That is the big thing that separates Destiny from other games for me… is that I become emotionally attached to my gear.  Folks have talked about the feeling of when they get that first exotic, or the one that they have been chasing for months.  For me…  I get the same thing when I get that perfect roll on a weapon and know that from that point on I can just use that instead of using some crappy version of it that I had been holding on.  The prime example is the Year 2 Haakon’s Hatchet that I use now as my primary weapon.  I love this thing and the ability to keep using it into Year 3 had been a huge thing for me.  Sure I try out lots of other weapons as they come across my path… but at the same time I know I have this old reliable friend sitting waiting on me whenever I want to return.  Let me keep bringing my “companions” along with me in my journey in Destiny 2.

Platform Agnostic Account

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This is one of those situations where I think Bungie had an intention but then for whatever reason could not get it to work as intended.  When you play Destiny you have a Bungie account, and then those accounts are associated with either your Playstation Network or Xbox Live account.  I’ve played Destiny on my original platform of Playstation 4, but I’ve also owned a copy for Xbox 360 that I then upgraded when I got my Xbox One.  When I go to the Bungie website I can see both accounts worth of characters, but they are separated by this invisible barrier.  What I want to see is for that barrier to fall.  My <Tequila Mockingbird> Clan tag extends between the platforms so that even when I am playing on the Xbox I am representing my solely Playstation based group.  So that tells me there is already connective tissue, but that things are just not working as they should be.  With Destiny 2 there will be three possible platforms at launch:  PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.  Right now I plan on shifting my focus to PC because there is a whole group of players that wanted to play… but just were not console folks that I have been waiting to play with.  However if I knew that I could rush out and pick up a copy for PS4 and Xbox One that then take the same characters and play with them?  I would do so in a heartbeat.  I understand the challenge of making Xbox Live and PSN talk to each other… and the weirdness that happens when an account crosses those boundaries.  However the data is just data… and since it is dialing home to Bungie servers to retrieve that data that I can then see through the web interface…  it would make sense just to let people have a single batch of characters and inventory spread across all of the platforms.  If this expansion I could have taken my Titan main from PS4 and play it with my friends that are Xbox folks… I would have done that a whole lot more rather than trying to level an entirely different set of characters.  Granted I did manage to get my Xbox One Titan up to 370 light… but I am also mildly insane.

These are just my hopes and suggestions for things that would improve my Destiny 2 experience.  I am curious what exactly my readers would want in the new game?

 

Secret Story of the Galaxy

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This morning is one of those days.  I just literally got out of the bathroom where I held my hands under the tap to wash them… and then could not figure out why the tap was not turning on automatically.  Moments later I realized I was in fact at home… and that we don’t have the same sort of magical faucets that the rest of the world does.  This week has been a bit of a challenge because I am just straight up exhausted all of the time.  No amount of caffeine seems to be able to break me out of whatever haze I seem to be in.  It does not help that it has been cold and rainy…  in May.  By this time last year we already had the pool open and I had a yard full of flowers.  This year however it just hasn’t been warm enough for either, and the yard is so water logged that before long I will have a grand primal swamp.  My evenings have been spent watching various things on Netflix and working my way through the Agent storyline in Star Wars the Old Republic.

In a way I am glad that I left this storyline for the last, because it seems to be making a bunch of callbacks to the other stories that I never would have gotten had I not already played the other seven classes.  There are constantly folks being mentioned…. and I am like “I know that person” or in some cases “I killed that person in another life”.  For years I have thought that the Jedi Knight main story arc ultimately was the most “canon” of them all…  but in truth I feel like maybe Imperial Agent is also deeply canon because it shows the underside of the world and all of the pieces shifting slowly into place.  While Jedi Knight is the “big damned hero” tale, Agent seems to be the “truth” that happened while the hero tale was playing out.  The story behind the story is always interesting, and I continue to be intrigued at just how much I am getting into this.  I think it is a testament to just how good the game really is that it can plop me down in a role I would never actually play…. and make me love it.  I also deeply dig Kaliyo and my dark side murdery nature seems to play well to her brand of violent sarcasm.

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However after all of this skulking about and subterfuge… I am really looking forward to switching back to my Jedi Knight main and continuing through the rest of the story that I never got around to playing the last time.  When we played December 2015, I got caught up in the 12 times story bonus that allowed me to play through all of the classic stories without having to worry about any additional questing.  Once I finish the Agent that particular mission is complete, and it will allow me to pick back up where I left off… which is the beginning of the Shadow of Revan content.  I really want to see how that storyline goes, and I also want to see how exactly the transition to being “The Outlander” happens as well.  I love the original game, and in part I am wanting to see just how the game changes once it shifts to the Fallen Empire model.  I mean I realize I have plenty of boosts available and could just catapult a character to near maximum level.  However most of my enjoyment in SWTOR comes from actually playing through the content, much like the same is true with Elder Scrolls Online.  So while it feels like both games are taking forever…  I don’t really want to rob myself of the experience.

 

Netflix and Turtle

Yesterday when I wrote my post I was deeply looking forward to the Tuesday night FFXIV shenanigans.  However as the day went on things went sideways.  Its not so much that a sequence of bad events happened…  but more a sequence of events that robbed me of every single “spoon” I had to give.  I am very much a person who recharges my batteries by milling around by myself doing piddly things.  Each social engagement, even if it is just saying good morning to the security guard on my way in the building…  consumes a bit of energy that I have stored up in reserve.  Now that I am in management… it feels like those batteries deplete all too quickly flitting between meetings and making sure my team is taken care of.  One might question if management is really a great choice, but in truth it is one of those things that just sort of happened over time. I never set out to lead a guild, it just was something that I did because it needed to happen.  Similarly I fell into my current position because it just needed to happened, and the alternative was to hope someone else did it.

As a result I came home last night, cooked some dinner… and by the time I had cleaned and sat down on the couch I completely lost sync with time as a construct.  So at 8:30 I found myself apologizing to the FFXIV crew for needing some “turtle time” where I pull my head into my shell and pretend the world doesn’t exist.  I feel like this has to suck to experience from the other side of the equation, because I don’t always know when it is going to hit or what the ramifications are going to be.  All I know is when it does I just cannot deal with communicating with other people.  I have friends who experience the same sort of thing, and it is at least comforting that I am not the only person who goes through it every so often.  The only problem is the more I do it… the harder it is to break out of the cycle.  It reminds me in the days of this blog before I went on the whole crusade of regular posting.  The longer I went between posts… the harder it was to make the next one because it felt like this invisible audience was somehow expecting me to poop sheer brilliance out on the page every time I posted anything.  Similarly it feels like each time I withdraw, I have to psyche myself up to be some sort of rockstar version of myself to make up for the fact that I was in hiding.  I mean I know that is not actually the case, but it is super hard to explain that to anxiety brain.

What did I do instead last night?  Well I spent some quality time with Netflix… and tried to chill out and remember that everything is okay.  Over the last couple days I have watched the first episode of American Gods…  which makes me realize how damned long it has been since I read that book.  Things felt familiar in a fuzzy melange of the details I sort of remember about the book, so I guess that is a good thing.  I also watched Maria Bamford’s Old Baby…  which was delightfully bizarre.  I mean I suggest it, but you need to go in expecting it to not really be like any other comedy special you have ever seen.  I watched a handful of episodes of Dear White People, which I really enjoyed on a bunch of different levels.  Finally I finished the night watching the three available episodes of Handmaid’s Tale that were on Hulu.  The last one I am not sure if you can actually enjoy… because it is fucking disturbing.  I am hooked but on a stomach turning level…  I mean for whatever reason I never read the novel, and I think I probably should.  Probably not the best thing for an anxiety riddled mind, but I am glad that I watched it.

 

Taris is Horrible

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This weekend we went through some insane weather.  Namely just torrential amounts of rain and constant wind.  Thankfully the only “damage” is the fact that our outdoor furniture got strewn about mercilessly.  Last week we had a leak in the living room, on one of the days we were getting some horizontal rain.  Thankfully the roofer was able to come out Wednesday, and while he didn’t see any smoking guns…  he did notice that our flashing was raised.  After tamping back down and re-caulking everything, it seems to have worked because we more or less made it through the weekend without any more water slowly dripping down from the beam running across the room.  So far so good…  and while I am joking with the image above I am thankful that nothing bad really happened.  I know within an hour and a half of the house there was some massive flooding that for the most part caused houses to disappear in the rising waters.  Even within my own town while I drove around on Saturday and Sunday there was a significant amount of flood happening in small pockets.  The only thing that really seemed to take on water was a little bit seeping into the garage underneath the garage door.  Our front lawn however looked like an archipelago…  with lots and lots of standing water.

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As far as gaming went I spent a significant amount of time snuggled up on the sofa in a fuzzy blanket playing Star Wars the Old Republic on my laptop.  I am going through what always feels like the rough patch empire side, which is Taris to Hoth.  No matter what game you play it…  Taris is a shithole.  I mean it is less horrible when you are visiting it at night like you do during the empire campaign…  but it is still horrible.  Similarly Hoth is this giant bluewhite wasteland with music that seems to put me to sleep in a way that only snowcloak can.  As a result I am just trying to stay focused on the end goal, which is finishing up this class and getting on to other things.  The positive however is that the Imperial Agent storyline just keeps getting more interesting, which is shockingly not something I expected.  I don’t really go for the whole espionage thing, and while I found bond movies interesting as a child…  it was never really a life goal.  Whatever the case however I am finding myself drawn into the story, at the very least enough to keep moving forward.  I am however looking forward to taking a break tonight to get some Final Fantasy XIV friendtime in before returning once more to the story grind.

Regularly Playing: May Edition

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I had a realization over the weekend as I stared at my sidebar…  that it has been a significant amount of time since I last did the regularly playing thing.  The last one I was able to find was on October 3rd of 2016…  some 210 days ago.  I may or may not have completely fallen off the wagon on this concept.  The original intent was to take a moment once a month to “true up” the side bar and shift out what I was no longer playing for what I was currently playing.  As a result we are going to see some significant moving and shaking in the list as a result.

To Those Remaining

Final Fantasy XIV

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I am still going fairly strongly in Final Fantasy XIV, and while I might not log in every night I am logging in multiple times a week.  I am definitely still making the Tuesday night raid thing, and while we don’t always make progress each week we get together to do something.  Thanks to the wonder of cross server grouping we have been able to pull in our friend Kelesti into some stuff as well.  Largely we are all in a big holding pattern until the release of Stormblood which comes in July, and as a result I am still in the middle of my “level everything” binge.  Right now my Machinist is just shy of 40, and that leaves Astrologian the only thing that has yet to be touched.  The whole purpose behind all of this madness is so that I can purge my vault of anything at minimum sub 30… and the grand hope is to sort through anything sub 50 and be extremely judicious in what I choose to keep.  Still having a lot of fun in Palace of the Dead, just have had other distractions of late.

To the Returning and New

Skyforge

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This is one of those games that has not graced my sidebar in a very very long time.  In July of 2015 I played quite a bit of the game around the time that it launched, and while I enjoyed it… it always felt like it was missing something.  Apparently October of last year an expansion released that added in pretty much all of the features that I am finding myself enjoying now.  Additionally the game just works better with a controller than it ever did with a keyboard and mouse and while I returned primarily on the PS4… I am also dipping my toes back into the PC experience as well.  Both are extremely fun and I am not entirely sure how long I will be splitting time before I officially pick one platform.  Whatever the case if you have ever played this game I highly suggest checking it out.  It has some issues… namely you are limited to three classes at the start with no clear path to add new ones.  However each of the classes is doing something somewhat unique which makes them more enjoyable than the standard Tank, Mage and Healer that they represent.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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There are two things that are shocking about this game gracing my list.  Firstly that apparently I never actually made a “now playing” widget for it, and secondly… that I am back playing it again.  I blame a sequence of nostalgic events happening at exactly the same time…  all of the hype about the next Star Wars movie, the love of Rogue One, and my deep enjoyment of Mass Effect Andromeda has lead to an upwelling of love for both Bioware and Star Wars.  As a result I have returned to an old mission, which is trying to level through all of the class stories.  I managed to finish off the Sith Sorcerer and am now through Hoth so far in the Imperial Agent.  It seems as though I picked one of the best storylines for last, and even though I am not traditionally a stealthy/shooty type class…  there is something extremely awesome about this one.  I largely went Sniper because my Smuggler on the other side of the fence is Sawbones/Healer.  I am having a blast right now, so I am going to ride the enjoyment until it lasts.  The goal is to push forward into the story I have not touched on my Jedi Knight main after finishing the Agent story…  which involves Shadow of Revan, Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne.

Horizon Zero Dawn

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I do not normally put many single player games on the regularly playing list, but we have this sequence of amazing ones being released in short order.  One of those is Horizon Zero Dawn, which is a game that I hit hard at launch… and then for whatever release lost momentum to Mass Effect Andromeda.  As a result I have been slowly playing it here and there as time and desire allows.  I could force myself through the story, but I want to play it when I want to play it… and that is right now involving the occasional hour long session of hunting giant robot dinosaurs rather than pushing forward the main story.  I am still very much enjoying the game, but I need to find some catalyst that really gets me back into it and dying to play the next chapter.  In the mean time however I am still enjoying the “bowplay” if I can coin that term.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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This is very much another “as desire hits me” sort of experience.  When the game came out I picked it up on the Wii U and in the time between then and now I have managed to pick up a switch effecting starting back at square one.  This stalled my progress a little bit but for the most part I have returned to where I left in the Wii U and am once again moving forward.  I have designs on starting to take this to work and playing a little over lunch and on break times.  While I have the switch I really have not done a lot of handheld play with it remaining largely docked upstairs so I can play it with the pro controller.  It is a great game and in spite of having a lot of things that frustrate me about the game… is yet another in a long list of titles contending for my game of the year bid.

To Those Departing

World of Warcraft

While I still have an active account, I am just not really playing at all.  I logged in shortly after the last patch and got bored and logged out again.  I fell off the raiding bandwagon about halfway through Nighthold, and honestly just sort of reached the point I have in so many other expansions.  I think in theory I could come back and play casually and enjoy the experience but there are just simply too many other things I would rather be playing right now.  So as a result this is going to find its way off my side bar, but I did have the forethought to simply comment it out rather than remove it because I am sure at some point around Blizzcon time I will get hit by the bug once more.

Rift

Much like with Nightmare Tide… I just failed to gain traction with the latest expansion the Starfall Prophecy.  A large part of my struggle with Rift is that I can never seem to find a warrior spec that I really like anymore.  What I ultimately want is a juggernaut for doing PVE/Leveling content that can burn through the mobs with nonexistent downtime.  If I ever find that spec again I will return to the game and happily finish up leveling.  The other huge struggle is that the game lacks a reliable current font of knowledge.  The forums in theory have a lot of the information but it is this blend of current information and ancient and no longer reliable, and I just lack the mental fortitude to sift through it.  I am hoping that after writing this… Muspel or PK will come to the rescue once again with a viable Warrior build like they have in the past.  The other huge challenge with Rift is the fact that none of my gaming infrastructure is playing the game, nor do any of my regular suspects have any interest in the game at this point.

Destiny

It hurts more than a little bit to be adding this game to this space on my list.  The truth is I am just not playing it right now and I don’t see that changing for the foreseeable future.  I have too many other games fighting for my attention, and while I absolutely know I will be returning with Destiny 2…  the amount of stuff that I can do solo or want to so solo is pretty limited.  At this point it feels like I would be working towards something that is ultimately going to disappear.  I also have a lot of questions because as it is right now… I am looking at making the leap to PC from PS4 for the second game… and I am not sure what if anything might transfer.

Guild Wars 2

Adding this one to the list really doesn’t take a lot of effort.  I was only into this game so long as some of my friends were actively playing it.  Once Tam and Ash and Kodra faded away… so did I.  It is still not my favorite game but I have developed a certain appreciation for it.  Most of what it is doing however isn’t really all that interesting to me.  I largely got to play along with my friends only because I had maxed out my Warrior soloing for ages without them.  He was geared and ready to go… and will still be there if it ever has a resurgence.  Much like Warframe this is a game that was not ultimately for me…  but somewhat enjoyable so long as I was playing with friends.

 

 

 

 

Friendtime Storything

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Bel Folks Stuff

Once upon a time I recorded a podcast called “Bel Folks Stuff”.  I am extremely talented at giving things super specific names.  The idea was pretty simple, AggroChat in a smaller setting allowing me to branch out and record shows with individual friends.  The central conceit of the show was that it was going to be somewhat of an interview show, where in theory I asked all of the participants the same questions each time.  There were things that worked about the show, and there were things that didn’t really.  It never gained much traction which was a bit of a bummer, but it is extremely to gain momentum when you are only releasing a show each month.  In the grand scheme of things I am still fairly proud of the shows, and every so often someone asks me when exactly I am going to record some more of them.

In truth…  while I want to do something similar, it feels weird to consider just starting up three years later and recording new episodes for the same show.  I cancelled the show in June of 2015, largely because I was going through a bit of a rough patch in my life and something needed to change.  At that point I was publishing Tales of the Aggronaut each morning seven days a week, recording AggroChat each Saturday, writing two weekly columns for MMOGames.com, and trying to squeeze in time to figure out when I can record with someone and get a Bel Folks Stuff episode in each month.  Additionally work was a little insane with me stepping up to more of a managerial role, and then also attempting to raid in two different games at the same time.  The show didn’t have a whole lot of listeners in the grand scheme of things, so it felt like it was the obvious thing to drop.  Ultimately in the long run I wound up cutting back more severely in that I am no longer really associated with MMOGames.com at all… and I have dropped this blog down to a weekday morning only thing.

The show had a good run however of seven episodes where I got to hang out and talk with eight different friends.  There was in fact a bonus episode where I got both Rowan and Scooter together to talk about gaming as a couple.  For those who didn’t even know the show existed…  here is a full list of the episodes that I now keep on the AggroChat.com page.

  1. An Evening With Syl
  2. Rowan and Scooter
  3. An Evening with Alternative Chat
  4. Evening with Petter
  5. Evening with Qelric
  6. A Good Friday with Liore
  7. Late Night With Jaedia

Huge thanks as always to @Gypsy_Syl, @RowanBlaze, @Sctrz, @Petterm, @QelricDK, @HeyItsLiore, and @Jaedia for making the show awesome and interesting to listen to.  The biggest problem that I ran into as a whole with the show is the fact that out of the eight folks I had to schedule time with…  only three were in anything even vaguely close to a drift compatible time zone.  That meant the whole process of finding a time that they were conscious and I could record was a challenge.  Unfortunately that is not really ever going away since a lot of the people I really want to sit down and have a chat with are European.  However trying to juggle that along with everything else on my plate was a bit much.  The problem is that I still have the desire to record something along these lines, but like I said before it felt weird just to start up doing the same thing again.

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For awhile I have been trying to sort out how I wanted to functionally reboot “Bel Folks Stuff” and what changes if any I wanted to make to it.  I got completely hung up on the concept of having a friend on the podcast and having them tell me… and our listeners a story.  One of the constant threads among gamers is that we file away these experiences to recall at a later date as we tell tales to our friends and guildies.  I mean I have spun a yarn about the “Bunny Incident” numerous times in the past, enough that you can just say those words and most of the people I play with know exactly what I am talking about.  As I mulled over the concept a bit more I decided that I didn’t necessarily limit it to gaming stories only.  Sure that solidifies the niche of listeners I had for the show…  but in truth I am just not that super concerned about soliciting a huge number of listeners.  There was a period of time I thought maybe this would be an alternate career path, but after attempting to do the writing for pay thing…  I’ve come to realize how not compatible I am with that idea.

I name things oddly… and that is pretty much a given.  The name “Friendtime Storything” came from a lot of mulling things over and some brainstorming with my friend Neph who is going to ultimately be a victim of this process.  Now I simply need to figure out the list of people that I want to talk to and start scheduling times.  In truth this mornings post is intended to be somewhat of a recruitment vehicle.  What I am wanting to do is hard to explain without understanding what I was trying to do with Bel Folks Stuff in the first place.  Mostly it will be me sitting down with a friend and having a good chat, with as the tag line states…  a thinly veined excuse to make folks tell me a story.  I feel like I need a show like this to pull in the people that I don’t have time to talk with on AggroChat.  Right now we have a fairly fixed and reliable crew on that show with myself, Ashgar, Grace, Kodra, Tamrielo and Thalen.  That has been “the crew” for a few years now and apart from missing an episode here or there, or bringing in some additional folks for a big show…  that mix feels good the way it is.  This show is going to let me snag people and do something different.  The main plan is to release these episodes as sort of bonus material in the already existing AggroChat podcast feed.  In theory I SHOULD have enough free bandwidth on Libsyn to sneak one of these shows in each month.  There are a lot of things I would do differently had I a second chance… and one of them is to quit spawning secondary sites each time I had an idea to do something.

I am not entirely certain when this process is going to start, but I have a feeling that within the next few weeks an episode should appear.

 

Generations are Weird

This is absolutely not a topic I would have chosen for myself, but it is one that has been swimming around in my brain since last night.  Last night my good friend Liore posted an article called “F*ck You, I’m Not Millennial” from Huffington Post.  I initially braced myself for yet another “Millennial Bash” article, but what I found was something that articulated the general sense of confusion I have felt my entire life.  Generations are an odd construct, and it could be argued that they don’t exist.  However there are significant differences between mindsets and outlooks every so often.  I think vastly different than my parents or boss who are firmly planted in the Baby Boom era.  My parents thought vastly different than my grand parents who were the children of the Great Depression.  I was born in 1976 which lets me claim the late 70s, entire 80s, and early 90s…  as my formative years.  So I have various traits of folks who grew up in all of those…  and not an entire matched set of any specific generational stripe.

In part I blame the internet and computers for shifting my focus on what I found important in life.  In High School I remember having to make an appointment at a big library an hour away to use the internet for a research paper…  which then largely involved WAIS and Gopher searches to find information to then download and print out.  Years later I met my wife over IRC and while we grew up 30 mins apart…  were introduced by a mutual friend living in Belgium.  So I largely grew up just accepting the fact that I was yet another Generation X member, even though I didn’t necessarily feel like I had all of the traits of Generation X.  According to the “sanity” version of the timeline in the Article above…  I am instead the first year of Generation Y, which is the generation that demographers largely forgot they spawned.  That break out honestly makes a lot more sense to me for a lot of reasons.  Firstly while my first console experience was Pong…. and we had an Atari that I remember fondly…  my gaming formative years were absolutely on the battleground of the Nintendo Entertainment System that I got in late elementary/early middle school.  So calling us the Nintendo generation seems fitting for a whole slew of reasons.

I still largely feel like I am out of sync with the generational construct.  Growing up I consistently hung out with folks way older than I was, and now that I am an adult thanks to the magic of the internet I tend to skew the opposite direction.  A large chunk of my friends are in their late 20s to mid 30s…  so while I feel like I definitely do not always see eye to eye with them…  I can at least understand their thought processes.  As a result I think my generation more than anything is a translation layer between what came before me, and what comes after me.  There are so many times at work I get pulled into discussions to do just this… and somehow explain to the Baby Boomer management what exactly the Millennial generation is saying or meaning.  Generations are this sort of social shorthand for trying to identify significant differences in the way groups of people were raised.  The problem with this is that I think the number of differences are accelerating, and before long there will really be no meaningful generational breaks.

Growing up when I did more or less in the 80s…  most families were fairly similar.  There were a lot of specific cultural touchstones brought on by the fact that we more or less had three channels of television to watch at a given time.  However as I aged everything was a sense of constant change… we went from records to cassettes to the Walkman to the CD to mini disc and finally ending up with the MP3…  and now streaming music services.  Media and entertainment was a moving target, that kept changing…. so we just accepted this as normal.  I remember I was a late adopter of the CD largely because I could purchase 2 cassette tapes for the price of 1 CD…  and that allowed me to get more music into my life.  There was also an element of scarcity in everything because I grew up in a town of 2500 people…  deep in flyover country.  To find any store not deeply constrained by limited stock, I had to travel roughly an hour to the south.  As a result we did a lot of experimenting and enjoying whatever the hell was available…  which lead to some extremely eclectic tastes pulled from the clearance bin at the mall.

Events felt larger and more homogeneous.  Everyone watched the Oscars because there was nothing better to do…  same goes for every awards show or movie of the week.  You could go to school the next day and it was pretty certain that everyone would be talking about the same things…  because there were a limited number of things actually happening on any given day.  Now other than shared interests…  I don’t have a clue one what is going on in most peoples lives unless I am intimately aware of the details.  To give the example above…  I’ve not watched an awards show or even really had one playing in the background as I did other things for at least a decade… probably pushing two.  The internet gave me access to so many better ways to spend my times, and as I grew up… it grew up too.  My first internet experiences were like many on AOL, but after racking up a $250 phone bill calling the next city over… that door slammed shut pretty fast.  It wasn’t until 93 / 94 ish when I got proper unlimited internet…  which involved a contorted system to actually get access.  I had to pay $20 a month to the phone company to make the next town over a “local call”, and then $40 a month to Galaxy Star Systems…  a budding regional ISP to get unlimited internet access at blazing 96000 baud dial up speeds.  So a grand total of $60 a month…  but it gave me doorways into completely different worlds.

I think in part this feeling of being an “Internet Pioneer” is what always drives me to keep trying new things.  It almost seems as though it is my duty to be the beta tester for everything that comes down the pipe since I have seen and experienced so much of what came before.  This feeling however I think is also what makes me feel out of phase with whatever generational boundaries I am supposed to be feeling.  My world has been one of managing change and figuring out how to deal with it.  I will claim that I do not like change at all… but when it happens I am generally the first to roll with the punches and sort out what the new normal is going to look like.  Maybe this is bombastic of me… but I would like to think of myself as being part of some Cipher generation… that uses our weird irregular experiences to help bridge the gaps between these other more traditional generations.  So while I might not understand the way a Baby Boomer thinks…  I can at least translate what I am saying in a way that is going to land and resonate with them.  I mean I do this as a job anyways…  translating deeply technical terms into a sequence of metaphors and easy to digest chunks that the business can understand.  Maybe I just always did this… and maybe the properties of whatever generation I happen to be really part of is a chameleon like sense of adaptability.  The only real normal we have ever experienced for any length of time… is change.

Twitter GOTY “Poll”

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Last night was a bit of a rough night, because we had a massive storm blow through.  A side effect of the storm was the fact that about 11:30 my wife woke up on the couch because something dripped on her foot.  In the middle of our living room, dripping from one of the beams was a slow trickle of water.  At that point there really isn’t much to do other than put down a towel and a bucket and hope it stops.  However that sort of ruined any thoughts of a really solid nights sleep.  This morning I had originally intended on writing about a rather hamfisted absurdist article that is making its way through my twitter circle, but in truth I am simply going to not deal with that today.  It reminded me of conversations that myself and Tamrielo have on a regular basis… but I also wanted to approach the topic with more grace than I probably have in me right now.  So instead I am going to answer a twitter poll in blog form.

While technically not a poll, it is definitely a thing that I thought looked interesting so this morning instead of tearing into discussions that I don’t really want to get into…  I started thinking back upon various years and trying to determine the games that mattered the most to me during that time.  Also I may or may not be applying a little “in retrospect” to a few of these choices, but that is also ultimately my prerogative.  I limited myself to only picking games released during a specific calendar year, but in many cases the true impact the game had happened much later.

2012:  The Secret World

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I really cannot say enough good about this game… from the perspective of someone just starting out playing it.  I’ve said an awful lot about this game over the years in three pages worth of blog posts… and probably some others that I failed to categorize correctly.  This often makes my “best games I am not playing” list whenever I compile one.  Functionally there are two vastly different game experiences…  the leveling game when you are digging through the story and trying to solve the mysteries of the world…  and the end game where you lose all creative freedom that you had while leveling.  The first game is phenomenal and something that I feel everyone should experience at least once.  The later…  is ultimately what caused us to quit and keeps me from reattaching to the game for any length of time.  However that said the ride is well worth it, and the game has some of the more interesting dungeons in MMOdom…  until you reach nightmare levels where everything sort of falls apart.  I am really looking forward to the re-release of the game under the Secret World Legends name… and hoping beyond hope that they can give me an experience to latch onto with both hands.

2013:  Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

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The impact this game has had on me and my friends is immeasurable.  Largely because it gave us a common ground in the form of an MMO experience that we all care about.  More than anything however it knows how to tell story in and interesting and serialized fashion, where the story arc from one expansion sets up the key players for the next.  This is also the only MMO that has ever sufficiently pulled off a surprise plot twist, and has done so many times…. and been willing to assault structures that I assumed were fixed and sacred to the game itself.  From August onwards in 2013…  my life pretty much belonged to Final Fantasy XIV until we slowly petered out when we ran out of things we were capable of doing.  However we came back and had a renaissance with the game that has continued to the present times with this still being the game we can all sort of agree on.

2014: Destiny

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This is another game that realized its ultimate impact on me long after the year it actually released in.  Destiny is a really important game to me for a whole lot of reasons.  Firstly it has amazing moment to moment gameplay and it is hands down the best feeling shooter I have ever played.  From the moment I heard about the world and the setting I was completely sold… and in truth this is the game that pushed me to buy my way into the current console generation.  I got my PS4 console the week the first PlayStation exclusive alpha was happening, and the little I played of it hooked me extremely hard on the concept.  Year one had a lot of problems, and I sort of picked at it like you might pick at the remains of a meal you know you are done with…  but just keep nibbling on.  I did return to paying regularly towards the tail end of the first year, so that I was primed and ready for the launch of The Taken King.  From Year Two on however I have been a dedicated acolyte of the world, and own it for both PS4 and Xbox One…  and am contemplating making the leap to PC version with the launch of Destiny 2.  The game still has some narrative problems, but it does not stop me one bit from enjoying it.

2015: Fallout 4

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I love Fallout as a franchise.  I still remember saving up the cash to buy the first one when we were in college, and I was completely hooked.  I am not old school enough to remember Wasteland fondly, but I have always been a fan of the whole post apocalyptic nukepunk genre.  So while I am listing this as my game for 2015…  it is a hype cycle that began long before and continues long after.  This is still the game I boot up when I am in a specific mood.  Similarly I have played Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas countless times, and Fallout 4 simply replaces those in succession.  This game is proof to me at least that I care far more about systems, and gameplay…  than I really do about the main narrative in a game.  In fact the only reason why I probably beat this game is because we chose this as our November/December AggroChat game club game for the tail end of 2015.  I would probably still be avoiding the main story… and still off on my own having adventures in my head….  which is in truth my preferred method of playing a game.  Just talking about the game has given me this huge urge to boot it up…  right now…  which would be a horrible idea considering I have to go to work.

2016: World of Warcraft: Legion

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I have to give a lot of credit here to World of Warcraft and the rebirth of the game that happened with the launch of the Legion expansion.  They took a game I thought I no longer really cared about, and was legitimately done caring about…. and turned it into an experience that I rabidly played.  I even managed to return to raiding and didn’t check out this time until we were a few bosses into Nighthold…  which is in truth way longer than I lasted in Draenor.  I’ve reached this point where I am not really playing the game or following it now… but the transformation that took place should nonetheless be honored.  They tried a whole bunch of new ideas that they admittedly borrowed from other games… but wove it together in a fashion that felt new and fresh.  Similarly I feel like it has to be said that they have done and continue to do a great job of managing patch cycles.  They finally broke the “three and done” mold that had happened with Pandaria and Draenor and by all accounts are still releasing interesting content.  I know at some point I will return and at the very least finish out the Legion flight meta achievement, but for the time being I am simply not forcing myself to play a game I am not super into.  Legion however is probably going to go down in history for me as their best expansion…  toppling what was previously my current favorite Wrath of the Lich King.

 

So now that I have given you mine… what are yours?  Feel free to post them in the comments section here… or join in the twitter poll.  I am curious to hear everyone’s thoughts.