Grind to a Halt

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When we last visited my Orc Warrior on this blog I was just about to start the Warlords content, and this week when I have not been poking my head into Destiny I have spent it pushing forward in World of Warcraft.  It’s honestly been a shock just how fast leveling went until I hit Legion content.  The old world was a confusion slog where I jumped zones each time I saw an exclamation point show up on the adventure guide.  This meant I was constantly jumping zones every few levels and most of that journey was a complete blur.  When I started Outland I did the majority of Hellfire Plateau then jumped over to Terrokar Forest for a little bit before finishing up the grind in Nagrand.  From there I jumped to Northrend and did a good chunk of Borean Tundra before jumping to Grizzly Hills and doing most of it and finally leaping over to Scholazar Basin to finish the run out.  From there we entered the Cataclysm zones and did all of the 80-85 grind in Vashj’ir without actually completely finishing that zone.  Then came Pandaria and I managed to do the entirety of the 85-90 grind without leaving Jade Forest.  From there I went to Draenor where I managed to hit 98 by doing the entirety of Frostfire Ridge and finishing up with just a tiny tiny bit in Spires of Arak.

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This is the point where the express elevator has come to a grinding halt and I’ve been confronted with normal speed leveling because all of my heirlooms petered out at 100.  I chose to do Stormheim first largely because it is both my favorite and least favorite zone at the same time.  All of the Norse themed Vrykul bits are awesome, but all of that faction nonsense is not.  It did give me access to another Order Hall champion quickly however so I am down with that.  At this point I have finished both the main story arc of the zone and the faction bullshit arc and am likely to move on to the next area.  There are a lot of things I have noticed… not the least of which is how ridiculously huge this shield is on my female orc warrior.  It is as thought they scaled the shield for the insanely bulky male models and then just called it good enough for the female ones.  The second of which is how much more intricate and slower paced the Legion content is compared to Pandaria or Warlords.  When I leveled through the content it seemed really quick, but what makes things slog a bit in comparison to what came before is how fragmented the quest hubs quickly become.  This might also be an aspect of the map itself feeling so busy with so many world bosses and objectives hidden out there to slow your journey down.  I cannot resist wasting a few minutes to find a chest that is nearby or going after a mini boss, and as a result my leveling pace has gone to hell.

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At this point I am contemplating investing in a set of Heirlooms which will set me back quite a bit of gold.  It isn’t as much about leveling quickly, it is more about not outpacing the gear I am wearing…. and also not looking like I am picking up scraps from the battlefield while I level.  I’ve liked making outfits for my character up until this point and then progressing my way through the content without having to care too much about swapping out items.  In a perfect world Warcraft would have heirlooms for every slot and I could simply level my alts without ever having to worry about swapping gear out.  With the new races coming in I fully expect to be leveling a lot more alts, and in truth investing in plate 110 heirlooms now will probably helm in the long run given that I tend to play plate wearing classes more than any others.  I am still really bummed about the direction they are taking with artifact weapons.  I would have loved to see them turn them into leveling heirlooms much the way that the items that dropped off Garrosh in Pandaria served this purpose.  It would have been a fitting end to a really awesome chapter of the game to be able to then use those weapons to level your alts.  Still having a lot of fun but I am also ready for the ride to be over and for my character to get geared up.

Xur Week Twelve: 12/1/17

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Destiny 2

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This is potentially the last of these Xur reviews that I will be doing on this blog.  It is not out of a lack of interest, but more than next week with the Curse of Osiris the reset time is changing and with it when Xur arrives.  Right now Xur shows up in the middle of the night and as a result by the time I shower, get ready and sit down to blog is available for me to talk some shit about what he just brought.  Starting next Tuesday however that reset time will shift from 5 am my time to 11 am …  long after I have already been at work for a significant amount of time.  This is a boon for the career YouTube types so they don’t have to wake up quite so early, but not really for me so alas this is probably the end of my recent Friday feature.  The flash point zone this week is the EDZ which means Xur is hanging out near the Winding Cove drop zone.  There is technically a cave that allows you access to the ledge he is on… but I never can remember where the entrance is and just end up jumping up the rocks to the right of where he is at.

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Sweet Business is a really cool sounding weapon that winds up being a horrible idea.  Maybe I am being a bit unfair but in truth I have never been able to get much out of this gun.  Firstly it requires some wind up time while firing before it arrives at its final rate of fire and as such true damage potential.  The perk payday in theory helps with the wind up because you can fire it from the hip relatively well and as such start firing ahead of when you are actually needing to deal damage to a target especially in the crucible.  The magazine size of 99 seems really awesome…  but given how fast this fires you will be empty and suffering the pretty horrible reload speed before long.  Where the gun really lacks however is in the total ammunition you can carry.  Payload might help your magazine but it doesn’t actually seem to help your pool of ammo and when I attempt to run something using this weapon I find myself always starved for kinetic ammo.  Definitely pick it up if you do not already have the weapon, but I am not a huge fan of it.

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Do you want to punch things?  Do you want to punch all the things?  Then these might be the gauntlets for you.  In the grand scheme of things they probably are not that good, but are pretty fun to at least play with while running around doing planetary content.  The biotic enhancements per does two things really, firstly it greatly increases the range of your punch allowing you to hit targets at roughly the distance warlocks can.  On top of that it gives you a version of surrounded where the damage your punches deal increases based on the number of targets around you.  This is insanely fun against boss type encounters with a lot of minions and would potentially pair nicely with either the Sentinel or Striker trees that allow you to gain health regen on kills.  Definitely a pick up if you do not already have it… and in truth I am even going to log into the PS4 and buy this since it is the only Titan exotic I am lacking there.

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Arc Bolt is one of those grenades that only seems to work in really ideal conditions.  This chest is all about making that grenade be able to chain a little further, giving you some wiggle room on what those ideal conditions actually are.  The problem is… there are WAY better hunter exotics than this one and in truth until Arc Bolt gets some sort of a rework it isn’t exactly worth building an item loadout around.  The positive however is this version does come pre-slotted with an arc grenade recharge mod so at least they realized the only edge case anyone would ever want to use this item.  It’s worth picking up for unlocking but not really much more than that.

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Do you like Nova Bombs?  Do you want to always be Nova Bombing?  Me too…  sadly this helmet won’t actually let you do that thing.  The perk Actual Grandeur in theory grants you super energy on Nova Bomb kills.  The rate that I have seen is that if you are able to Nova Bomb and kill five targets, it will take your super bar roughly to the halfway point.  So sure this does a decent job of regeneration but it also falls drastically short of the dream of being some sort of Evil Ryu throwing void fireballs.  In my experience if you are dedicated to Voidwalker you are far better off with Nezerac’s Sin or even the Eye of Another World.  Once again, pick it up for the unlock because Bungie occasionally balances exotics to make them better and you might as well have it in your collection.

Destiny 1

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This week Xur is hanging out at the Reef and offering a few items, including a Helm I never managed to get on my Titan.  This week he is offering.

  • Legacy Primary Engram – 31 Strange Coins
  • Eternal Warrior – Titan Helm – 13 Strange Coins
  • Young Ahamkara’s Spine – Hunter Arms – 13 Strange Coins
  • The Stag – Warlock Helm – 13 Strange Coins
  • Monte Carlo – Primary Auto Rifle – 23 Strange Coins
  • Monte Carlo with Royal Flush Ornament – 30 Strange Coins 25 Silver Dust
  • Trespasser with Crucible Assassin Ornament – 30 Strange Coins 25 Silver Dust

Bungie Mostly Gets It

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Yesterday I made a post talking about some of my frustrations and some of the frustrations of the community at large.  In lieu of giving the final Bungie Curse of Osiris reveal live stream, they opted to instead give us an extremely dense blog post paired with a podcast episode expanding on the theme.  As a programmer by trade I am generally slow to assign malice to the actions of game developers, especially when said problems get patched out of the game.  There have been so many times in my own life that I have thought something was going to be a really good idea, and in the end it only served to hurt my user base.  As a result I haven’t really talked about the whole XP gain issue because it didn’t really directly effect me.  I essentially told myself there were three reasonable bright engrams that I could get per character and past that I didn’t attempt to go out into the wilds and grind for more.  I didn’t even really have time to participate in the Clarion Call event that was happening over the Thanksgiving weekend because family and reasons.  Also as a programmer I read yesterdays post as a game company attempting to peel back the curtain and show the players the mess that is hidden behind it.  I more or less accept their explanations and I figured this was something I should state up front before I dig too far into the specific issues.  I highly suggest you read both the blog and listen to the podcast because hearing the voices of Luke Smith, Mark Noseworthy and Eric Osbourne explain why things are the way they are…  really drills home the point that they did mean the best.  None of them are really polished orators and there is emotion in those voices that helps to add accent marks to the commentary.

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One of the biggest announcements is that there is a brand new tier of weapons coming.  Yesterday I talked about the whole static roll thing and mostly how I was bracing for the return of randomized stats.  In truth I was preparing for the worst because I actually like static rolls on gear because it lets me know directly what I am shooting for, and not always wondering if there is a better roll around the corner.  I feel like they sort of shot down the middle and landed in a happy place that I can accept as reasonable.  Masterworks will be legendary weapons that roll with an extra mode that provides some amount of randomized stats.  The above image is lifted from the Bungie blog post and shows a Uriel’s Gift with a bonus 10 to reload speed and also shows that they are starting to track how many kills you have made with a specific masterwork weapon.  They announced a couple of things about this that make them more reasonable…  firstly you can re-roll the stat node until you get the one you actually wanted.  Secondly you can break down masterwork weapons that you do not want to get upgrade materials to turn your normal legendary weapons into masterworks themselves.  Functionally this gives players what they said they wanted… in the ability to get different versions of weapons but also makes it sane and rational for those of us who actually liked fixed rolls in being able to upgrade our existing stash to the new version.  Also it allows us to slowly work our way to perfecting the roll with whatever combo we were wanting on it by re-rolling that node.

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Another big announcement is that they are adding duplicate protection for exotics, so that the game will by nature favor giving you exotics that you do not already have over exotics that you have seen over and over again.  This has been a major point of frustration for a lot of players, myself included…  in that we keep getting the same exotic items over and over when there are still a bunch on the list that we have never seen.  I hit a streak of six prospectors in a row awhile back, and anything to blunt that would be much appreciated.  They also announced the return of Three of Coins in a modified form of just providing a 4 hour buff that gives you an increased chance at exotic drop rates.  I had a love/hate relationship with Three of Coins, and to some extent I like Xur serving more of a purpose each week than just presenting you with exotics you have already seen him sell numerous times.  Lastly while on the Xur front they announced that he would begin selling an additional item called a Fated Engram which decodes into an exotic item that you have not already unlocked on that character.  The above image shows that this costs 97 shards… which is a hefty price but by the time you need this you are probably going to be swimming in them.

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Another thing that I was extremely excited to see is that Banshee-44 will start just straight up selling a limited number of mods each week for a combination of Mod Components and Legendary Shards.  Now at first this doesn’t seem a amazing because it is not like we are swimming in Mod Components, however they are attempting to create a bridge for that too.  The biggest problem I have with the mod system is that in theory I need to hold onto every single blue mod in the hope that I get three of them to turn in for the purple variant.  As a result I regularly have no room left for mods because the 50 slot inventory is just inadequate.  Now they are going to make it so with blue mods you can break them down for gunsmith materials but they will also have a chance of dropping a mod component at the same time.  While saving them up for a guaranteed mod is nice… I will absolutely start breaking down every blue i get because I just don’t have the room.  They did state that eventually he will sell Kinetic Damage mods which in truth are the only ones we really have a hard time chasing.  Side notes… apparently Master Rahool will start straight up selling Legendary Engrams to help those chasing Masterwork weapons, and Benedict will redeem raid tokens before you get your first clear.  Additionally faction merchants will only now beckon you…  if you have enough tokens to turn in for a faction package.  So no more every icon in the tower blinking at once.

Functionally everything I have talked about is coming in either the December 5th update or December 12th.  I am going to attempt to list out the various things appearing in each, but I am certain to miss stuff so again I highly suggest you read the blog post and listen to the podcast for yourself.

December 5th

  • Armor Ornaments
  • Gunsmith Selling Mods
  • Blue Mods Occasionally Dropping Mod Components
  • Master Rahool sells Legendary Engrams
  • Benedict allows immediate raid token turn-in
  • Reputation Token Economy changes – way more tokens per activity but slightly higher turn in amounts
  • Cayde’s Treasure Map Minimum Payout
  • … and of course the Curse of Osiris storyline and related stuff

December 12th

  • Masterwork Weapons
  • Selection of Faction Armor/Weapons Purchasable for Legendary Shards
  • Xur Changes – Fated Engram + Three of Coins
  • Zavala/Shaxx sell Gift consumables that give interesting bonuses
  • No More Empty World Chests
  • Vendors leave you alone until ready to turn a package in

 

All of this sounds great to be honest.  The problem is we rarely get one of these posts like this.  All the player base really wants is to know what is coming down the pipe and roughly when they can expect it.  This is true for Bungie and Destiny but also equally true for World of Warcraft or any persistent game that receives a constant slow trickle of content.  Sure dates may not be final and they can shift and slip… but it is still nice to know what exactly we are waiting on.  I can only hope that this is the beginning of them giving us more information in greater detail… but in truth I feel like this is triage to stave off the angry pitchfork mob.  As players we get deeply invested in these games, and to hear them talk about it as a Hobby is a step in the right direction.  I would love to see one of these posts each time there is a content drop brewing just to let us know what folks are thinking and how they plan on addressing the concerns of the community.  Deej and Cosmo both do excellent jobs of giving us information…  when they are allowed to.  Most of the frustrations with online games in general come from a feeling of not knowing what is going on in this thing that we are spending so much of our time doing.  If we got a monthly post that outlined the timeline of what they were thinking about doing during that month…  I feel like we would be in a much better state and more willing to give the benefit of the doubt.  However this is a double edged sword and they talk about it a bit in the podcast.  They have been so gun shy to say anything because they don’t want an idea they had to turn into a promise when they maybe don’t even know if it is possible yet.  In the end…  its a tricky situation but I think the combination blog post and podcast were the right decision to make at this time.  I’m pretty excited about a bunch of the quality of life changes, and ready to tear into the new content next Tuesday.  My sodium levels have lowered greatly.

 

 

 

Destiny 2 Sodium

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To say the Destiny community is a little salty right now is a bit of an understatement, so as a result I am using a screenshot of the emote for today’s post.  We are in this weird situation where anyone claiming to enjoy themselves right now is being angrily labelled a Bungie shill.  The truth is my play time has decreased greatly over the last few weeks but this isn’t necessarily because I am not enjoying myself still playing the game, but instead because I have reached a point where I feel comfortable not grinding all the time towards my goal.  I am a very loot centric player when it comes to MMOs or loot driven games, and now that I have reached the top of the hill…  a lot of my drive to keep grinding disappears.  Sure there are things out there that I want to do and want to obtain…  but I have been grinding Destiny 2 since September 6th when it launched on the PS4.  I leveled a set of characters on console and then hit the PC launch with the same gusto with it happened on October 24th grinding up a brand new set of characters there.  Next Tuesday the latest batch of content will release and I am preparing myself to start the grind all over again as I attempt to top the hill and get to the next loot and level cap.  In truth I am likely just backing off a bit to give myself some breathing room right before the next rush starts.

That said there are a lot of players who have eased up on the play time and this taken with the wave of frustration circulating add up to a fairly disgruntled player base that Bungie is going to have to appease.  The core issue for me at least is that Destiny 2 has seemed to be a sequel to Destiny 1 at launch…  not Destiny 1 in the state at which it arrived during year three after the significant improvements that came with Taken King and Rise of Iron.  My working theory has always been that they started work on Destiny 2 at some point during the release cycle of Destiny 1 and never really took into account everything that happened to massively shift the game during Year 2 and Year 3.  As a result when Destiny 2 launched it felt like it was feature limited and missing a lot of the quality of life improvements that we had come to expect.  Additionally some poor decisions like shaders being consumables kept piling the frustrations and we made our way through the content. So I am going to talk about a few points this morning that either bother me or bother a lot of players.

Forced Throttling

One of the biggest personal frustrations for me is the lack of ways that I can see improvement in my character.  Like I said above I am very loot centric and my core drive in this game as with most loot driven games… is to improve my gear score.  There has always been a final slog to the goal in Destiny but in this incarnation it came way the hell too soon.  Light gain felt really good up until about 265/270 and then the bottom completely dropped out leaving you with a handful of “Powerful Gear” milestones to do each week.  I am absolutely certain that this is a mechanic that they put in place to make it so casual players could hang with the players willing to grind endlessly for gear.  The problem is for those of us who would be playing the game nonstop… it gives us no real reason to keep doing so.  It takes me about an hour per character to grind out the three easy powerful gear milestones each week (crucible call to arms, planetary flashpoint, and clan xp).  So after those three hours of gameplay…  there is really nothing else left for me to do that is going to move the needle forward.  Even now sitting at 305 light…  I would still be grinding and spending my time catching up all of my favorite weapons to the level cap.  The problem is that everything drops 5 levels below your current light level, feeling like a slap in the face each time you see another useless bauble that will never be of use to help you climb the ladder.

Skill Based Match Making

This is a topic of great contention among the PVP haves and have nots.  In Destiny 1 there used to be an algorithm that attempted to match you up with players in your same skill range, and it favored this pairing over connection quality.  With Destiny 2 they reversed this decision and seem to be basing pairings entirely on connection quality and as a result I see a lot of people with Oklahoma and Texas themed names from my digital neighborhood…  but also wind up getting thrown into some pretty horrible match ups.  The number of times I have gotten thrown into a match with a full team of ringers that then proceeds to shred my team of randoms…  honestly represents the majority of my times playing crucible.  It feels horrible to keep being ground up and spit out by a bunch of folks that are queuing together.  While tweaking the calculations for team making they really need to favor throwing randoms with other randoms and teams with other teams, because the current state of the only thing mattering is your connection really sucks.  The only positive is that I have had to get better much faster by being thrown against a wall over and over.  I am still not what you would call good, but I am passable and can usually do my Call to Arms in 4 to 5 matches and that is really all that matters to me.

Static Rolls

In Destiny 1 weapons had a randomized set of stats and perks that could come from a list of possible perks on that weapon.  This lead to the process of grinding an activity on the hopes of getting a “god roll” weapon to drop, with whatever the community had deemed was the ideal set of stats for that weapon.  A prime example of this was my “God Roll” Haakon’s Hatchet from Year 2 Iron Banner that came with Perfect Balance, Counterbalance and Range Finder giving it an insane stability of 80 and an aim assist of 79 making it a laser beam that just melted opponents.  Similarly I had another one sitting in my vault that I never got around to dismantling that only had a stability of 58…  which makes the weapon perform drastically differently.  There are huge swaths of the Destiny community that are salty about the absence of random weapon rolls, and in truth this is one of the areas where I am extremely happy with Destiny 2.  I love knowing that when I finally get Jiangshi AR4 to drop from gunsmith… that it will be the best possible roll of that weapon without having to try for it multiple times.  I love knowing that if I suggest Better Devils to a friend, that I don’t have to specific that you need it with this perk or that perk or it is completely useless.  I have a vault full of sub par Imago Loop hand cannons in Destiny 1 because I never actually got the perfect roll, and the same goes for Eyasluna another weapon I chased hard to always came up empty.  I think primarily the salt is coming from the fact that static weapon rolls removes one more thing that people did in Destiny 1 and was not replaced with a similar grind to serve as a time sink.

Timed Nightfalls

While I have done them several times…  I just do not like the new Nightfall system with its weird timed mechanic.  The truth is there are a lot of people who just want back the way Nightfalls used to feel as being a harder version of the normal strike.  This is compounded by the fact that there are no heroic strikes to serve as a bit of a middle ground.  Personally I am just not a fan of anything on a timer because it stresses me the fuck out.  In elementary school I slipped two groups in mathematics thanks to these stupid quizzes called mad minutes… where you had to get a bunch of problems done in a minute.  I do not perform well when on a timer and as a result I either rushed through and made a lot of errors or had zero errors but took my time.  When you put me on a timer and I know I am on a timer… I am going to perform like shit.  This is in part why I rarely willfully did mythic+ dungeons in World of Warcraft because they stressed me out more than they were worth.  I will do a Nightfall, but they are mostly like swallowing a pill… and now that I have hit 305 light…  I have no real desire to keep doing them.

Strikes are Meaningless

In Destiny 1 I used to spend hours grinding the heroic strike playlist because it was a possible source of gear upgrades but also a way that I could get special unique strike specific drops.  Later on they put in the strike scoring system and it ramped the reasons to keep running the strikes as they were a great source of faction and also rewarded loot from completing the bounties.  The current state of Destiny strikes is that they are largely fun but also completely pointless after you get to 265 light.  There is nothing that you can get from them apart from Vanguard tokens that make them worth repeated running.  Similarly with Nightfall strikes, they are only worth doing once per week per character, and again this adds to the feeling that there is “nothing to do” that players are having.  Its not that there are not things to do…  its that there is a general sense of feeling like there is nothing “worth” doing.  I miss hoard chests at the end of strikes that had the possibility of dropping really interesting things.  There are still weapons in Destiny 1 that came from these chests that I never managed to get, and if I went back to the game it is the sort of thing I would work on trying for when nothing else was going on.  Basically the game as a whole feels like it is lacking stretch goals that players can accomplish reasonably while doing solo play.

Still a Great Game

As you might be able to tell from this post… I have my own issues with Destiny 2, but all of this said it is still a game that I enjoy each time I log into it.  I’ve been on a recent binge of leveling my Orc Warrior in World of Warcraft and very similarly that is a game that I have lots of problems with…  but still enjoy.  Mostly I think for me it is a sense of disappointment because after playing through Destiny 1 I have seen them do certain things better.  Similarly I know that Destiny 1 Year 1 was an awful place and to see where they went over the three years of that game, have taught me that they can in fact improve and pivot while the game is still running.  Today Bungie was supposed to do the final live stream reveal for the Curse of Osiris expansion, and they have cancelled it largely to go back to the drawing board a bit.  It seems like they are instead planning on giving us more information about the future of the game and some of the ways they plan on changing it.  My only fear is that they might over correct and do away with some of the things that I think are working well.  Static rolls are great as far as I am concerned, and I would hate to see them go.  The problem is which players should Bungie listen to and which ones should they not?  All I know is that I feel like I lack goals that are in the distance that I can keep shooting for that also support solo play time when I just can’t handle being around other players.  I’m curious to see where the game goes from here.

Seasonal Swan Song

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I talked a bit about progress in Destiny 2 in yesterdays post but I didn’t really want to get too deep into it figuring I would talk more at length today.  Last week I managed to knock out a bunch of accomplishments, not the least of which was hitting 305 light finally on the Titan.  Granted I realize this is all going to be in vain starting next week as the level cap itself is raising and I assume as well that means the light level with it.  Last week was Iron Banner, the second for console players but the very first for those of us choosing to primary the PC version.  Now on the PS4 I managed to complete a full set of Iron Banner armor on my Titan and my goal was of course to do the same for the PC.  I consider myself extremely lucky because I managed to get the full set after turning in thirteen packages.  There are folks I know who have been grinding away at this all week long and are still missing pieces of armor.  In addition to this I managed to pick up all of the weapons but three…  sidearm, fusion rifle and submachinegun.  Of those the only one that I would have actually used is the Fusion Rifle, but even there I have several options that I like already including Merciless if I am willing to give up my exotic slot and Main Ingredient if I am not.  The most important weapons for me were getting the Pulse Rifle, Auto Rifle and Hand Cannon all of which will see use.  The scout rifle might, but I need to spend some more time playing with it.

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The other thing going on is the fact that this week is effectively the last chance to do anything in Season 1.  Now I am not entirely certain what this means from a player perspective other than the fact that we know a bunch of new stuff is going to happen.  All of the Eververse items are changing out apparently, so that only makes the fact that they have apparently been throttling our xp gain towards bright engrams all the more shitty.  In truth I have gotten the few items that I care about…  namely the Ramen bowl emote and Bandwagon ship.  On top of that I managed to pull three of the exotic ships total and two of the exotic sparrows.  All in all I feel like I made out pretty well for season 1, but what I am really curious about is whether or not all of package loot is changing as well.  There are a number of weapons that I have not managed to get that I really walk…  namely the Curtain Call rocket launcher, Jiangshi AR4 auto rifle and Halfdan-D auto rifle.  I would not mind getting a Morrigan-D rocket launcher either considering I believe it is the only one with tracking still intact.  Finally I really want to complete the hunter set from Io on the off chance that maybe those are changing out as well.  Granted I don’t know any of this, but I know in Destiny 1 they started re-rolling the weapons so that is a possibility here as well I would guess.

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Lastly the other big change for us personally… is that our clan will be resetting from rank 6 to rank 1 next week and we will need to begin the leveling process anew.  Supposedly we will be adding a brand new clan banner standard to the mix because we maxed things out in Season 1.  Additionally the perks for each of the clan ranks will be changing out to a new set more relevant to the content we will be doing, that is at least in theory Vex based.  The only thing that concerns me is that we do not have nearly as many people actively playing right now as we did at the launch of the clan, and as a result the grind is going to go more slowly.  The calculations I had done before said that we needed about 20-25 characters reaching maximum contribution each week to keep us hitting the progression cap each week, and I think in theory we will still have at least that.  I know I will continue to keep contributing my 5000 clan XP on three different characters per week and if things get dire I have a set of characters on the PS4 on a secondary account that could add experience as well.  This whole season thing is new concept to me and I am somewhat excited to see just how different the game is from a loot perspective.  That also means that this week I need to do some significant vault purging to get ready for the introduction of new items.  I am hoping that we get some more space… because we need it across the board from vault to shader storage.  If they really want money from me…  I would throw money at the screen for more storage space.

Shovels and Shoveltusks

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I declared Thursday and Friday to be part of the weekend last week and decided to take myself four days off from the blog and one week off from the podcast.  I feel super chill going into what is likely going to be an exceedingly stressful week so I think it was probably a good call.  Apart of having to help my folks move some furniture yesterday, I mostly had a pretty chill thanksgiving.  Both Friday and Saturday my wife and I attempted to avoid the world, and the only shopping we really did was online apart from a mad dash out to Target around 9 pm on Friday.  At that point the store was largely sane and wasn’t that much different than a normal trip on any other night.  Throughout all of this I have found myself forsaking my normal checking of Pokemon Go in favor of the relatively newly released Animal Crossing Pocket Camp.  First off I have to admit I have never played an animal crossing game before so I didn’t have much of a cultural frame of reference going into this.  The experience instead reminds me a lot of a mix between the former web based casual MMO Glitch and some flavors of Stardew Valley.  Whatever you end up calling it the game is extremely charming and at this point I am level 16 and have a bunch of the animals at my campsite…  enough that the last three or four gave me a messaging saying there was no room.  Unfortunately I have no clue how you actually determine which ones are at your camp and which ones are not…  but for the moment I am rolling with it.

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I’ve also seemingly hit whatever the friend cap is because when I try and add anyone it says that combined between my friends list and the few outstanding requests I have run out of room.  I have no clue what this cap actually is…  I estimated 200 the other day but I am guessing in truth it is closer to 100.  The game is maybe bad at messaging some things but I am largely limping along without doing much in the way of research.  There is a quarry mini-game that requires you to get help from five of your friends, and I wish they messaged when my friends were needing help a little better.  For example if you look at the middle section of the above screenshot you will see a shovel icon out to the side of Kelsey’s name.  I wish there was a way to sort these to the top of the list because they are really the ones I am most interested in given I like helping other players, because you appear to get some sort of cut of their profits.  After that you attempt to guess which rocks have the most profitable stones…  gold nuggets seem to be the best.  I still very much feel like I don’t fully grasp a lot of things…  like how the hell to make large quantities of Bells that Animal Crossing currency.  Right now I have a 30,000 bells loan with the auto place and have never really gotten close to paying it off.  Thankfully they don’t seem to be sending anyone to break my kneecaps because of it though, and they still allowed me to customize my RV regardless of having the loan out.  I feel like maybe they don’t have the best business model.  Regardless if you have not been playing this you should probably check it out because it definitely seems to be addictive as hell given the wide variety of friends that seem to be playing it on a regular basis.

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I made a bunch of progress in Destiny 2 but I am likely going to wait until tomorrow to talk about that.  Instead I wanted to talk a bit about the other game I played over the break…  World of Warcraft.  I am still working on my tiny Orc Warrior that is getting less and less tiny as each week goes by.  At this point I have completed the Cataclysm content and am on the airship just about to start the invasion of Pandaria.  This is something I have never actually done on the horde side given my last several characters I leveled were abusing the shit out of the pre-legion launch invasions.  I’ve also not spent much time playing through Warlords of Draenor as a Horde character, so that should be interesting as well.  Similarly I have never seen Legion as the Horde…  all things I am interested in experiencing first hand.  The biggest shock for me is just how fast Cataclysm managed to go given that I started in on Vashj’ir Saturday night and dinged level 85 well before finishing the final section of it Sunday evening.  I realize that zone is in theory about the same size as two other zones combined…  but I did not expect to be getting quite that much experience from it.  Granted I am fully geared out in level 100 heirlooms (minus the rings because I don’t have the patience for that nonsense), but did not partake of any of the experience boosting options.  The mission of the day however is to try and figure out how to get a Pandaria flying book…  because I do not want to return to land based leveling if I can help it.

Thankfulness

I have this horrible habit of starting things and then just letting them sorta die.  One of those things was the whole “Month of Thankfulness” that I did back in 2014.  The idea was simple enough and it effectively meant that at the bottom of every post I made a little note about something I was thankful for.  In theory I should have been doing this every year since during the month of November leading up to Thanksgiving.  That however never actually happened and I finally jog my memory about a week into the month and think to myself that if I didn’t actually start on time… then it isn’t really worth doing.  That is not to say that I am not extremely thankful for a bunch of things in my life.  The weird thing about depression is that your brain can contain all of this self loathing at the same time as a whole lot of gratitude towards other people.  However the hell this works I figured that I would make a post on thankfulness on this Thanksgiving Eve here in the USA before I troddle off to work.  In theory I should have taken today off but my work schedule has been crazy.

My Wife

I feel like I can’t really start off a post like this without taking some time to acknowledge how awesome my wife is.  We are an odd pair that on paper doesn’t seem to work that well given that we are both into some very different things.  However her strengths are my weaknesses and as a team we compliment each other in so many ways.  Each of us is stronger as part of the whole than we are individually.  More than that she “gets” me, and even though she doesn’t necessarily get any of the many things that I am super obsessive about…  she understands that they are important to me and as a result supports them.  She isn’t a “gamer”, even though she spends plenty of time playing games on her iPad or phone but gets that all of these related hobbies are at the core of my being.  She has patiently dealt with so many “just a second” moments that turned into thirty to forty minutes and generally taken it in stride.  For the last few years she has sacrificed several of her very limited stock of yearly personal days, just to travel with me to San Antonio for Pax South because she knows it is a big deal to me.  It is impossible to grab words that do justice out of the air how awesome she is and how much I love her.  I am thankful I met her so many years ago and exceedingly thankful for the last twenty one years.

AggroChat

In truth it is less about the AggroChat podcast and more a short hand for a very tight knit inner circle of friends that also happens to involve all of the members of the podcast.  I have this habit of collecting people and over the years much like a hermit crab I have taken a shell encrusted with so many awesome friends along with me on my journey through life.  We often talk about having a surrogate family through our online interactions, but in this case I legitimately mean it.  These people are my family and fate willing will grow old with as we talk on a daily basis about all sorts of important and completely frivolous topics.  Its been weird to watch how this dynamic has shifted and changed as we all aged from being largely a group of people who met during vanilla warcraft progression raiding, and then saw that relationship morph into something else as time moved on.  Others are significantly newer but no less precious, and even though I occasionally go into turtle mode…  and disappear for awhile, I always make a return when it is safe to poke my head out of my shell.  These are my people and I am so happy I found them.

Twitter

Twitter can be a horrible place, and in this year of presidential proclamations occurring in 140 characters…  it seems odd to be thankful for it as a medium.  The thing is…  “my” twitter is a different place and while I see the echos of the larger events going on around me… it is largely the eye of the hurricane filled with a bunch of people who are also taking shelter there.  I originally started my twitter account around the release of this blog back in 2009 and in many ways the original intent was to have a way to communicate with the other bloggers.  We’ve tried so many different platforms to carve out a sense of community, but the only one that continues to stand after shrugging off so many is twitter.  It is that common ground that still contains all of the voices that I want to keep track of on a regular basis.  There are so many people that are so much better at doing this thing than I am, and I love being surrounded by them.  Lately though I go for periods where I just lurk, followed by a bunch of random commentary and I am sure this gets annoying at times.  So additionally I am thankful to all of the people who tolerate my nonsense in this already cluttered medium.  If we are “mutuals” this thanks goes out to you because you make my life richer because of your interactions.

Work

I talk sometimes about how stressful my work is, and it absolutely is there is no discounting that fact.  That said I have some pretty awesome people that I work with on a daily basis and I could not keep doing what I do without them.  While this year saw some significant changes in many directions and saw Rae who previously was on the AggroChat podcast finding another gig…  the folks that remain are pure gold.  We do this performance review process each year, and yesterday I met with each of my direct reports as I completed theirs.  I was struck by just how lucky I am to work with the people that I do.  I’ve always been great at compartmentalizing when it comes to work, and so long as my little silo was doing okay…  I could deal with the rest of the ship being torn to bits.  I have a really great silo to keep my eyes focused on from my upper management all the way to my staff, and especially the various peers that I work with on a daily basis.  There is a sense of dedication to getting things done whatever it takes and I appreciate that, especially when I am going into the first holiday season in a really long time that I have not taken any significant time off for.  Camaraderie through shared struggle is a powerful force and I am thankful for those who fight for me as I fight for them.

My Readers

At this point there are so many things that I should be putting on this list, but I wanted to keep it fairly brief.  I do however want to close out with one more bit of thankfulness.  I am thankful for each and every one of you out there that regularly or just occasionally reads this blog or consumes anything else that I toss out into the world.  For me my blog is as much therapy as it is anything else.  Sitting down each morning and siphoning thoughts from my brain and committing them into text format helps me clear the slate.  If something was bothering me it often makes its way onto the virtual page and as a result I can begin the “getting over it” process.  I often times write like I am not actually talking to anyone other than myself, and as a result I am always sorta shocked when I find out that someone actually read the words that I cast into the void.  Please do not mistake this shock for a lack of gratitude, but instead it is surprise that anything I said was really worth consuming in the first place.  There are so many of you who have been with me in this journey for years, and I don’t always take the time to recognize the other people standing on the deck of this ship beside me.  Thank you so much and lets commence with the exploration of new and interesting worlds!

Punitive Shades and Iron Banner

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The 13th anniversary event is going on right now in World of Warcraft and I have been largely disconnected from me.  For whatever reason I am focused on leveling my Orc Warrior above pretty much all else.  This is often the case when I return to WoW after being gone for a bit, I have to ease my way back into playing my bigger characters.  This year each character gets a package that contains 200 timewalking tokens and the quest vendor also sells a bunch of items.  One is the Corgi from past events and another are these crazy sunglasses that my Orc Warrior is modelling above.  These seemed like a fun item until last night I happened to catch wind of something through twitter.

Why would you create an item that is only transmoggable during the yearly anniversary event?  I mean I guess in theory they did give every character 200 tokens so they can fall back on the reasoning that we aren’t out any of our time to get the apparently disposable item.  The transmog system in general has never quite set right with me because it seems overly complicated rather than simply just letting you swap any graphic with any other graphic.  However the fact that there are timed transmogs only makes me more grumpy with it.  I just hate the whole concept of time limited items in general because I realize these are supposed to make me want to collect them all before the time runs out.  Instead what they do is make me just not want to even try and save myself the general disappointment by not participating.  In the case of the  shades, I put them on the Warrior for fun but I am not deeply connected with them.  However it does seem oddly punitive to the players who have designed entire transmog outfits around them.  This is just part of the Blizzard school of design where we can’t have anything that is universally good.  Every nice thing seems to be required to have a negative that comes with it, and that ethos will always be an axe I have to grind with this game.

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My means of taking screenshots in Destiny 2 seems to have crapped out this morning.  It’s probably nothing a reboot won’t fix but I don’t exactly have time to do that when I am trying to churn out a blog post on the off chance that there might be queued updates to run.  Instead you are going to get the Iron Banner screenshot from the PS4 that I took when the event was last available.  Tonight I will begin the process of trying to get a set of gear on my Titan once more, because I really love the Iron Banner gear this time around.  I have the full set on my PS4 Titan and I love it so much for many reasons… not the least of which is it has a decent stat package.  Additionally I am all about trying to get back a few of the weapons that I really enjoyed using… namely the Pulse Rifle and Auto Rifle.  There are daily milestones and my goal is to attempt to complete them on each of my characters.  I am still frustrated that the Iron Banner is not a means of gaining power level the way it used to be in Destiny 1, but it is still a good source of cool gear and I am just going to focus on that aspect.

Memory is Fleeting

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With all of the recent talk about the World of Warcraft classic server, I have found myself contemplating a lot of things about the game.  We recorded a podcast episode where we basically spent the entire time trying to determine just how vanilla classic would end up being.  The other side effect of all of this is that I seem to be playing my horde warrior over on scryers quite a bit more than usual.  Now if you were to ask me to rank the current expansions to the game that ranking would look a little something like this…

  1. Wrath of the Lich King
  2. The Burning Crusade
  3. Legion
  4. Vanilla
  5. Mists of Pandaria
  6. Warlords of Draenor
  7. Cataclysm

Notice that number one and number two are the second and third expansion, and that weirdly enough I rank Legion above Vanilla.  What you are seeing is that my memory of these expansions and the nostalgia that colors them does not adequately represent the experience of actually playing through them.  I’ve recently leveled through the Burning Crusade content in a fashion given that you end up dinging your way out of it long before you actually finish much of it.  I did do Hellfire Peninsula in its entirety, the majority of Terrokar and a good chunk of Nagrand.  I left the Cataclysm tainted Vanilla lands at 58 and similarly left the Outland at 68 and as a result have spent the last four levels completing pieces of Borean Tundra.  The reality I am straddled with is that the zone design of the first two expansions is simply not good.  I mean at the time it was released it was world better than anything Vanilla had given us and as a result felt like a breath of fresh air, however when you stack it up against modern zone design from say Legion…  it is objectively not as well designed.

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What I mean by this is that the quests don’t flow cleanly from hub to hub and instead it forces you to do a lot of travel time back and forth between a hub and its related spokes.  All the while I was leveling through Outland and so far in Northrend it feels like I am spending a lot of time needlessly travelling between two destinations and this might have been the initial intent.  However after seeing modern quest design it feels like I somehow failed and allowed my quests to get out of sync.  If you fight your way through a micro dungeon with quest A you often find that upon turning in you now have another quest requiring you to go back there.  It is maddening to have to wade through an army of minions to kill a boss that you were already next to and sometimes even killed while completing the first quest.  The other that adds to this feeling of tedium is the mob density and having no real way to get in and out of these destinations without a heavy body count.  Thankfully on my warrior racking up a heavy body count is fun, but on other more fiddly classes this causes the leveling experience to grind to a halt.  The truth is it will probably have taken me twice as long to level through Outland and Northrend as it will have to push through the next three expansions.

As games mature their design ethic shifts significantly and we forget what it was actually like to play these games at the time.  When it comes to Classic World of Warcraft for Project 99 in Everquest… what we are chasing is a feeling not an actual honest moment in history.  I think when players say that they want to play Vanilla again…  they want to return to a time when not everything was mapped out quite so clearly and they had a sense of accomplishment and discovery each time they looted a kobold (and the game subsequently froze).  This is why World of Warcraft Classic is going to be the challenge it will be.  That experience means different thing to different players, and none of the calculations that a game company can make actually take the social component into play.  When I think of Vanilla or Burning Crusade or even Wrath, those memories involve very specific sets of individuals that no longer play the game and I might not even have contact with.  For Vanilla it was the Late Night Raiders, and Burning Crusade it was No Such Raid and when Wrath launched we were excited to be the Duranub Raiding Company.  Three non-guild based raids dominate those feelings and memories and the simple fact that I went through three separate raid groups tells you that there is no way to actually ever join those broken pieces back together again.  All of this said I will have characters on the Classic server, and I will see how this experience actually shakes out in the end.  I just feel like it is going to be exceedingly difficult to please even a fraction of the player base because we all want something different.

Xur Week Ten: 11/17/17

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Destiny 2

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This week we have a phenomenal week for Xur at least as far as I am concerned.  He brought a bundle full of goodies that I either had never gotten to drop or did not yet have on the PC.  As a result this week is an extremely expensive week for me personally.  As is always the case he can be located on the Flashpoint location and in this case that is Titan.  You can find him in the rig section in a building devoid of enemy spawns.  That said be careful because they will absolutely stand at the doorway and shoot you while you are hanging out and doing your business with your face tentacled friend.  You might need to do a little pre-clear before you duck inside.  Let’s get on with the goodness.

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Hard Light as a gun has always been in the marginal category as far as usefulness goes.  It was never a bad weapon but it also never really stood out in the pack.  The year two Hard Light feels better across the board but still is far from the best Auto Rifle that you could be using in your energy slot.  That said the it is still a really interesting weapon because of its ability to shoot around corners and the fact that it lacks damage fall off.  That is however a deceptive thing to say given the way Hard Light works in that it fires a volley of projectiles that go bouncing around as they hit surfaces, meaning you can in theory “curve the bullet” and fire around corners.  While the gun doesn’t have damage fall off there is absolutely accuracy falloff the further from your target you get because you increase the likelihood that it will encounter something else and cause the trajectory of the original round to shift.  All of this is still in the fun and interesting but not amazing category until you bring into play another intrinsic ability of the weapon, and that is to shift the elemental damage type by swapping around your perks.  This isn’t near as handy as the playstation exclusive sniper rifle that has a keybind allowing you to do it on the fly… but it does serve as an excellent prism/match game weapon that can shift to whatever element you happen to be lacking.  If you do not already have this it is well worth the pick up and I know I personally am definitely going to be grabbing this for the PC since I’ve yet to get it to drop otherwise.

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The Synthoceps are another fun and interesting item, but maybe not best in slot at anything.  If you are a Titan you probably like punching things…  and these gauntlets improve the way you punch things.  The exotic perk Biotic Enhancements increases your melee range and improves melee damage when surrounded.  That last bit can be a slight improvement if you only have a few targets around you to a massive improvement when you are fighting packs of things like thralls.  If you combine this with something like the striker melee build…  you can do a number of very interesting things and cause massive amounts of damage as a melee titan.  Similarly this would benefit the sentinel spec path that causes you to regain health on melee kill, but not nearly as much given that spec cannot really chain melee abilities in the same fashion as Striker.  This is an item that I had yet to get so I am definitely picking it up for the unlock, and more than likely going to try out a striker melee build around it.

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Do you really still want to punch all the things even as a Warlock?  Karnstein Armlets are a set of exotic gloves that are effectively all about punching things as a warlock.  They have a built in version of the devour perk, though as I understand it significantly weaker that causes you to gain health recovery on melee attacks.  Note that it says attacks and not kills so in theory just punching things are going to help slowly regenerate your health.  While doing this punch happy life you are also slowly increasing the regeneration of your melee, grenade and class ability.  I am absolutely certain there is a build out there that could make the most of this… and I feel like double dipping with devour is maybe a great option.  Sometimes you look an an item and think to yourself…  I can build something around this and that is definitely the case with these gauntlets.  If nothing else I wanted to pick them up simply because I did not have the unlock in my collection.

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The Lucky Raspberry is a returning item from Destiny 1 that more or less kept the same ability.  Probability Matrix the exotic perk causes your arc bolt grenades to chain significantly further than in their default state.  Additionally dealing damage with your arc grenade has a chance of recharging your grenade.  This means that if you drop your arc grenades in a large pack of mobs, it is extremely likely you are going to get a proc and return your full grenade charge.  This makes this item a beast for doing something like the Nightfall on the weeks where every kill counts towards gaining back time on the clock because you can wait until arc burn and become a mad bomber dropping grenades everywhere.  The rest of the time however you are probably not going to see enough mobs tightly clumped to really make this worth using.  Occasionally in the team shot environment of the crucible you can drop one and take out an entire team…  but that is going to be the exception rather than the rule.  Still a very interesting chest to pick up and at least add it to your collection.

Destiny 1

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Xur had a similarly interesting day in Destiny 1 as he brought a couple of my favorite items.  Firstly the Armamentarium is the chest piece that I want back for my Titan more than anything because it simply gives you a second grenade charge.  Right now I am so enamored with striker titan largely because it is the only spec I can have this functionality back.  Similarly once I found the Bones of Eao I never looked back because it started enabling me to quad jump as a Hunter, a piece of utility that beat out every other possible exotic that I might want in that slot.  The Warlock helm is largely forgettable because it is their version of the Alpha Lupi chest that Hunters and Titans have…  but Xur did bring the Universal Remote which is the very odd primary slot shotgun.  Lots of stuff worth picking up if you don’t already have them… and I would say for Titan and Hunter these are absolute must haves.  Enough so that I am legitimately considering grinding out the strange coins so I have them on my Xbox One account.  Here is the full run down of what he is selling.

  • Legacy Chest Engram – 29 Strange Coins
  • The Armamentarium – Titan Chest – 13 Strange Coins
  • Bones of Eao – Hunter Boots – 13 Strange Coins
  • Light Beyond Nemesis – Warlock Helm – 13 Strange Coins
  • Universal Remote – Primary Shotgun – 17 Strange Coins
  • Dragon’s Breath and Tigershark Ornament – 30 Strange Coins 25 Silver Dust
  • Nemesis Star and Meteorite Ornament – 30 Strange Coins 25 Silver Dust