Sickly Agent

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

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

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

MMO-Lite Fantasy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost Allagan Tankybutts

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

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

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

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

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

Smol Joy

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

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

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

Anthem Demo Weekend Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January Experiments

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Given that it is a Friday and the first of February… I thought I would spend this morning talking about a few experiments that I did during January.  First up is the EufyCam E that I was given a copy of to review by Anker.  When I posted the review I said I would provide updates talking about how well it has generally worked, and I figured now might be a reasonable time for one of those.  I have used this WAY more than I expected to use it, in part because it is constantly alerting me when any motion has been detected at my front door.  Because I also use a TicWatch I will get a little buzz buzz buzz on my wrist and see that the EufyCam has detected activity.  At which point I flip open the app and see a stream of video similar to the still that I snagged above.  Do you know how much it improves my day when I see my neighborhood cat friends have decided at random to come visit during the day?  In fact as I am typing this my wrist has buzzed to let me know that this exact same cat is outside wanting attention…  which is adorable because he likes to kinda jump up and head butt your hand.

Without the Eufycam I never would have noticed that I had this visitor one morning either.  At first when I viewed it on my mobile device since I tend to just watch a postage stamp sized preview… I thought to myself “well that is a chubby cat I have never seen before”.  It was only later when I watched it full screen that I noticed….  oh that is a Raccoon.  This makes an awful lot of sense because last year we had something trying to tear into one of our plastic chests in the backyard, and I guess I always assumed it was a squirrel…  but knowing how tricksy Raccoons could be I would not be surprised if it was this little guy.  Also weirdly we have had a flock of birds just sorta randomly land on the porch…  I am guessing gobbling up the excess catfood that I gave the buzz buzz cat above.  Regardless…  all of these little breaks in the day when I have animals on the security camera make me very happy.

The other really useful thing that I did not think about with this camera is since my wife and I right now have staggered schedules…  she often times gets home before me but immediately goes out for a walk.  The camera gives me a time when she left the house so I know approximately how long it will be before she gets back.  Lately I have been using this arcane knowledge to time a cup of coffee so that it is ready for her to come in from the freezing cold.  Other times I just use this as a way of determining when is a good time to start dinner so that it is ready when she gets back also.  There is of course the ubiquitous use of determining when a package has arrived, but weirdly…  I am way more jazzed about the random animal friends.  I’ve not actually had an occasion of a solicitor since I installed the cam, but I did freak out the outdoor cat one day when I used the “talk through” feature to say hello.  All in all I am super happy with how well the setup has been working, and when it is more widely available on the market I want to see what it would take to add a few more cameras.

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Another experiment that seems to be working is the whole “kick all products off to a twitter list” thing that I did shortly after the New Year (January 4th to be specific).  Originally this list was called Brands, because that was my original usage…  to cleanse my twitter feed of all spammy brand related information.  Recently however I have renamed it to “DistanceFollow” because that is effectively what I am doing…  following a user but putting some distance between them and my day to day twitter usage.  So there are a few things that have come about as a result of this.  Firstly this combined with turning off the retweets of a few accounts has made my twitter experience way more enjoyable.  I actually enjoy popping in to read twitter because it feels more like it used to…  me checking in on what my friends were doing throughout the day.  While I don’t have near as much time to check in as I once did, that actually makes this feel better because I am not having to wade through a bunch of promotional junk to see updates that I might actually care about.

The second part about this is…  I am way more likely to “try out” following someone by throwing them in the Distance Follow list because I expect it to be spammy and if I happen to decide that I really want to follow them more closely…  I will actually do a proper follow.  This is effectively what I tried to do with the whole Timeline 2.0 initiative a few years back… but I was going about it the wrong way.  In that I was trying to create a special bubble that only had the people I cared about interacting with…  but in this I’ve started weeding my ACTUAL follows and making it represent that core group of people that I care about.  I am sure I will continue to prune… because once that process starts it gets a lot easier.

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Another part that has helped this process is that I have been spending significantly more time on MMORPG.Social and Mastodon by nature is not a network that seems to give a fuck at all about follow numbers.  I have tried throughout the years not to care about this…  but still did to some extent in spite of not wanting to?  There are a lot of people that I never unfollowed just because they happened to be following me back.  Hanging out on the Fediverse and the fact that being mutuals isn’t really that bit of a deal there…  is starting to remove my giving a fuck about it on twitter.  As a result you can look at my Analytics and see that I have been slowly hemorrhaging followers for awhile now…  and I am okay with this.  I’ve come to accept that I do not have enough time in my life to hang out with every cool person I meet, and have also come to the realization that not everyone is going to like me…  and that is okay.

Social Media has always set up this weird dynamic giving you a false sense of connection when often times…  you are just an assemblage of pixels that occasionally says something funny to the person on the other side of the connection.  I’m wired weird where I tend to actually care about a lot of the people that I interact with.  The problem with that however is that there is no way I can keep that many people in my head at all times…  and then I feel like shit when I realize that it has been three months since I last had a conversation with some random person in my feed.  So as a result I am trying to care less about the minutiae and beat myself up less about not caring enough.  I have a circle of friends that widens and shrinks organically… and I am generally going to try real hard to be okay with that fact.

In the meantime however… looking forward to playing some more Anthem this weekend!

 

Self Exodus

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Here comes some random commentary.  I have for the most part been in support of the Epic Games store and snagging some of their exclusives…  like for example Hades and Ashen.  Those are games for which pre-orders had not started on any platform and announcing that they would only be available on this somewhat new storefront was perfectly reasonable.  I was largely okay with The Division 2 but I felt it was a little shady to shift gears a few months before the launch of the game.  I had not pre-ordered, and if I had been planning on doing so… I would have probably just ordered through the UPlay store to cut out the middle man.  However what just happened with Metro Exodus is in the “shady as fuck” territory, given that the game is roughly two weeks from launch and had been in pre-orders since at least E3.  That is way too late in the game to be massively shifting gears like that and THQ Nordic the sub company should have known that they would be screwing things up for THQ Nordic the parent company.

Still I am largely cool with Epic Games store as a vehicle for grabbing games.  Sure it feels a little spartan, but it is still a way better store front and client than Origin…  a point that has been reminded of late given how much I have had to fiddle with that client thanks to Anthem.  The problem I have is with the practice of taking pre-sales way the hell ahead of the games release, because frankly the term pre-order is a lie when it comes to digital software.  You are not plunking down $5 to reserve your copy of a game…  you are handing over your credit card information and often times being charged up front for the purchase.  The thing is… whenever that process starts those vendors should be locked in stone and unchanging.  If you didn’t want to support Steam six months ago…  then you shouldn’t have allowed sales of your product to begin.

In truth I don’t so much fault Epic for making offers, but the company for taking that offer in Bad Faith.  I get a regular stream of offers from people wanting me to place links on this site to whatever the hell it is that they are pushing…  often times some sort of a casino.  I don’t take the quick money because I feel like it would be violating the trust my readers have in me.  I don’t necessarily have a dog in this fight however because while I have been looking forward to Metro Exodus… it was never really a day one title for me and instead something I would play considerably after release.  However for those who were harmed by this action…  I get the outrage.  The biggest part I am confused by however is how they have stated that Steam Pre-Orders would be fulfilled and the game would be updated through that platform…  but the game itself would no longer be available there.  That just feels really odd and awful.

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As far as gaming last night… I got the Blue Mage to 40 through lots of grinding that was relatively boring and not worth talking about.  Then I swapped over and played some Destiny 2 where I completed a bunch of bounties… one of which being the weekly for Eververse.  I lucked out and managed to pull the Last Word ornament…  which will sit there waiting until I complete that quest chain.  I did manage to push through the step where you collect a bazillion hive cores or whatever it was we were collecting.  I also managed to make a little progress on the Malfeasance where I believe I am on the final step involving killing Guardians and getting invasion kills in Gambit.  I had fun… but man movement felt weird after getting used to Anthem.

Speaking of which…  who all will I be seeing in the weekend test happening Friday-Sunday?  I’m BelghastStern over on Origin so hit me up with a friend invite.

Guardian Blues

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I’m struggling a bit this morning to pull together a blog post.  In theory I think I am fighting a cold or something because the last several days I have just felt lousy.  Last night for example I really wanted to pop into some Destiny 2 and do the weekly tasks that are set in front of me on a brand new day.  However I roamed around the tower a bit before logging out for the evening because I could not seem to focus enough to actually do something as intensive as playing a guardian.  I didn’t really play much last week either, so I have not been helping push the clan level up and for that I feel bad.  I have so many things that I need and want to get accomplished but have just been lacking the drive to actually do them.  The quest for the Last World exotic went in yesterday but after looking what all is involved…  I am really not looking forward to more crucible grinding.  I had to do plenty of that already for the Malfeasance quest line that I have yet to actually finish.

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What I ultimately spent my night doing instead was working on the Blue Mage some more.  There are probably more productive ways to go about this process, but what I wound up doing was spent some time in Coerthas before eventually settling into Outer La Noscea grinding the 41-44 Goblin camps.  I managed to get Blue up to 37 so the progress was moving pretty well, but solo grinding largely involved controlling the camp spawns since I was many times the only person out there.  It reminded me a lot of the way that we used to play in Everquest, where you would work your way into an area and then try and hold that position while avoiding getting overrun as too many things spawned in at the same time.  There were a few moments where things got a little dicey if I had two bombs and two goblins on me at the same time, but all in all I reached a comfortable pace and thanks to Sticky Tongue I could yoink mobs over to my perch of relative safety.

The biggest challenge however is that 1000 Needles has started to miss a significant amount lately.  I am guessing its the fact that I have been hitting higher level mobs than my own level, but whatever the case it occasionally makes things a little questionable.  At this point I should probably be able to solo Haukke Manor just fine, but all of the remaining abilities that I can pick up are going to require some significant shenanigans to collect.  For similar reasons to why I didn’t play Destiny 2 last night…  I just did not have it in me to attempt soloing a dungeon.

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What I ultimately want to be playing however…  is more Anthem.  So I am guessing that the Demo did it’s trick of embedding that world deep into my psyche.  This weekend we are supposedly getting access again and I am looking forward to it.  I am hoping the various connection issues are resolved and I can spend some time playing with friends and doing missions together.  I am also hoping they maybe give us a bit more of a drip feed of content…  at least more than the one strike mission.  Regardless I am looking forward to suiting up again because it feels like it is going to be a game that latches hold of me pretty tight.  Ashgar introduced us to the FashionLancers reddit, which I am finding super interesting… but also realizing that I didn’t do anywhere near what I could have with the cosmetic system.  Here is hoping we get a newer build this weekend and with it a bunch of the issue have been put on ice.

1000 Needles

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I’m still not as engaged with Final Fantasy XIV as I would like to be, but I have been using the new Blue Mage limited job as a sort of way of easing my foot back into the water.  While I am not the fanatic for Blue Mage’s that Ashgar is…  I’ve always had a soft spot for the concept of learning abilities by getting hit with them.  As a result I’ve found it really fun and interesting to go around the world trying to learn new abilities.  I started playing the Blue Mage during the Podcast last week and have now made some significant progress, though from what it sounds not nearly as much as the folks that power leveled it in two hours.  Side note… there is apparently a glitch in the game that has been acknowledged that cannot be fixed until 5.0 that involves killing a monster with a single hit and then rapidly switching classes.  Since the first class never actually got flagged into combat… the second class that you switch to gains the experience.  The only problem with this theory is that most of the one hit classes are all casters… and the only thing I have to 70 are some melee classes.  As a result I have mostly been leveling the old fashioned way.

At this point my spellbook looks like this…

  • Water Cannon – Default Ability
  • Bomb Toss – Level 5 Goblin – Middle La Noscea – 23,21
  • Blood Drain – Level 7 Cave Bat – Lower La Noscea – 27,16
  • Ice Spikes – Level 9 Trickster Imp – Central Shroud – 27,24
  • Self-Destruct – Level 12 Glide Bomb – Western Thanalan – 27,17
  • Off-Guard – Unlock 5 Spells to Purchase
  • Final Sting – Level 13 Killer Wespe – Middle La Noscea – 15,13
  • Mind Blast – Solo Tam-Tara Deepcroft – Final Boss
  • Acorn Bomb – Level 17 Treant Sapling – North Shroud – 26,21
  • Bristle – Level 21 Wild Boar (supposedly Lvl.17 exists but never found)  – East Shroud – 18,24
  • Sticky Tongue – Level 24 Laughing Toad – Western Thanalan – 14,16
  • White Wind – Unlock 10 Spells to Purchase
  • Mighty Guard – Unlock 10 Spells to Purchase
  • Toad Oil – Level 24 Giggling Toad – Western Thanalan – 14,6
  • 1000 Needles – level 26 Sabotender Bailaor – Southern Thanalan – 15,15
  • Bad Breath – Level 31 Stroper – Central Shroud – 14,21
  • Faze – Level 32 Qiqirn – Eastern La Noscea – 26,32
  • Flying Sardine – Level 32 Apkallu – Eastern La Noscea – 30,34

I’ve more or less been following this guide on PCGamesN and am thus far missing Level 5 Petrify from the order they suggest and then we get into a bunch of abilities that come from bosses.  I attempted to solo Haukke Manor and just got wrecked so I effectively need to put some levels on before I can realistically do that.  I think at this point I am going to grind up to 32 so I can equip a full set of Battlemage armor and give it a shot.  The leveling thusfar has largely involved me wearing a bunch of random gear that I happened to have available in my bags rather than actually trying to go for something optimal.  The other answer is of course to simply grind the rest of the way to 50 and then deal with going after abilities after having a decent set of gear on.  Whatever the case I am finding this interesting and fun and it is super satisfying when you see the animation indicating that you learned an ability.  The money combo tends to be Acorn Bomb to put something to sleep, 1000 Needles to deal 1000 damage…  that ignores the debuff of Mighty Guard and repeat that until whatever it is you are fighting is dead with the occasional White Wind to heal yourself back up.

Too Pure for the World

So I have not related this story, but the other day I was roaming around outside of Aleport killing things for experience.  A FATE had just started and I began chipping away at it…  and someone responded in /say that I would not actually get bonus exp as a Blue Mage from those mobs.  This lead to them offering to kill stuff if I tagged it… so we ran amok for a bit in zone but at the time the fastest spell I had was Water Cannon.  So they suggested that I meet them at Costa Del Sol and ran me over to pick up Flying Sardine which is an instant, and then proceeded to have me run around the zone tagging things for a bit until I legitimately needed to leave.  This was not something I asked for, nor was it something I expected… but some random stranger on this awesome server called Cactuar just volunteered to help me out.  I shot up something silly like from level 10 to level 28 in a few minutes, but more than anything I was just shocked that someone was willing to do this random act of kindness…  which makes me realize how long I have been away from this community.  That is the kind of game that Final Fantasy XIV is… and over the years I have had so many of these random encounters that wind up with both of us friending the other so we can see orange text run past.  Hell I have struck up conversations just while hanging out on the Gold Saucer that wound up with me getting invited to run stuff with their Free Company.

Final Fantasy XIV as a community is just too damned pure for this world.

 

 

Anthem Demo Impressions

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This morning I am going to talk for a bit about the Anthem Demo that a good number of us participated in this weekend.  If you did not have access to the demo or one of the many friend codes that were floating around…  the truth is what you missed more than anything is a lot of frustration.  However the game that was buried under that layer of frustration was apparently good enough to keep us engaged and trying to log in over and over.  I want to talk a bit about my expectations for the game before going into it.  First off this comes from the pedigree of Bioware, so I expected a great world  with good character development above pretty much everything else.  Mass Effect was not a series known for its amazing gun-play, but instead the interesting things you encountered along the way.  My ultimate hope was that Anthem could be a game that was fun to the Destiny players, The Division players and the Warframe players and act as a unifying vehicle that was “a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll” and create an experience that felt familiar and enjoyable to all of them.  Essentially my hope was that it could be the game that folks rallied around in my community rather than having a group of us split loving Destiny and another group split loving Warframe.

Connection Issues

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So lets get the bad stuff out of the way first.  This is a screen a saw a lot of this weekend… otherwise known as the 95% freeze.  The game would load fine into Fort Tarsus the social lobby, but as soon as I picked a mission and attempted to start it the screen would freeze with 5% of the loading bar to go and stay there indefinitely while consuming near 100% cpu and gpu.  Now the weird thing about this is…  I am used to these sorts of bugs happening on the PC version of games…  but it was apparently fairly ubiquitous across all three platforms the game is appearing on which leads me to think this is infrastructure related.  There are individuals however that seemed to be completely un-phased by it… so I am also wondering if there is a connection/location based component.  Whatever the case the only way to get past it was to go into Windows Task Manager and kill the Anthem process, and then upon loading back into the game you would be prompted to join the expedition already in progress…  at which point you could load into the mission.

Experience and Loot Issues

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Last night I started being hit by a different bug, where I could not return to base from a Free Play mission.  This was remedied by killing with Task Manager and then when prompted to rejoin the mission…  saying no.  The only problem with this however is that in doing so I sacrificed all of the experience that I had gained while doing the mission.  This is the second major problem with Anthem…  everything in the game is considered to be a “match” and nothing is rewarded until you successfully complete said match.  That means if you get disconnected and for some reason cannot rejoin that session… you are going to loose out on all of the achievements and experience that you gained from that mission.  The only consolation prize here is that loot that you picked up seems to be independent of this annoying cycle, that said…  it isn’t ACTUAL loot until you have been through the exiting a mission screen to turn those generic loot indicators into physical items.  So I knew I had a few blue items in my inventory but had no clue what they were until I had joined another freeplay session…  which again required me to kill the game, relaunch and join the abandoned session…  before finally exiting out of a free play session successfully so I could acquire the stuff that I had looted in the previous rather length session.  This is some horrible nonsense…  loot should not live in this transitory state until you have successfully jumped through the right hoops… and also the exp you have gained should not be held hostage by buggy connection code.

Flight and Movement

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Now we move to something that is both one of the biggest strengths of the game… and one of the biggest weaknesses if you happen to be playing with a Mouse and Keyboard.  Freedom of movement is a massive part of this game and it feels awesome to be running along and simply lift off into the skies flying towards your next objective.  I think the overheating mechanic does a good job of giving you a reason why you can’t simply fly around in GM mode like you effectively can as soon as you get a flying mount in an MMO.  It is cool that you can dive quickly down to cool yourself back off or fly through a waterfall to get the cooled buff to extend your flight time.  Those are all really great mechanics…  but the mouse and keyboard controls feel awful without a significant amount of tweaking.  Huge credit goes to my friend @_KateyLee for providing me a link to a post on the Mouse Sensitivity forums where they worked through a bunch of different configurations.  Ultimately just zeroing out all of the sliders related to flight and swim movement seemed to provide me a good baseline…  from there I will tweak things up when the real game launches until I reach the most comfortable setting for me personally.  However if you also felt like flying and swimming was a horrible experience…  you might just try dropping the sliders down to zero and seeing if that works for you too.

Gunplay

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Another big part of a game like this is how the moment to moment gun-play feels…  and to this I can give the game a resounding “okay”.  It feels passable and quite honestly this game as a whole feels like they took the Multiplayer components of Mass Effect 3/Andromeda and built a brand new game around them.  I never really thought that any of the weapons in a Mass Effect game were terribly inspired feeling, but they got the job done and I guess that same admonition carries forward to Anthem.  I liked Assault Rifles and Shotguns in Mass Effect, so it is zero shock that my default loadout so far for Anthem is an Assault Rifle and a Shotgun.  I am hoping as we get into the wider game that we will start to see a greater breakout of weapons… because right now we have a couple of different variants of the weapon types but there is a general sameness to the way they feel.  The bar that I hold a game up to is Destiny, and the gun-play in Anthem is nowhere near as fluid or tight as that.  It however feels better than I remember Mass Effect Andromeda feeling…  which in itself felt a lot better than Mass Effect 3…  so baby steps?

Exploration

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Where the game excels is in exploration…  the world while relatively small in the part we have actually seen…  feels massive because every inch of it seems to be peppered with things to explore.  While out in free play mode which is this games version of “patrol mode” I got a tip from my handler about activity happening in a certain area… that there was a shaper relic that needed silenced.  So I moved over to that area of the map and went through a sequence of fighting things and collecting orbs until I finally silenced the relic.  This awarded me a chest and a bunch of experience points, but also had the unexpected side effect of now opening up a new area of the world map which lead to the ruins that I am exploring in the above screenshot.  This eventually lead me to a boss fight where I took down an elemental titan, which again counted as a world event with its own rewards.  This is the sort of thing that happens in game is that one thing chains into another thing and another and means that the world feels extremely fluid and rewarding to explore.  Since I tend to spend most of my time in these games solo… this means I will have a rich experience that is unfettered by walling up anything interesting in the game behind group content.  Just in my short time playing I have encountered a ton of areas that would be thought of as Lost Sectors in Destiny terms, that are hidden behind a waterfall or at the bottom of a lake or quite honestly in plain sight as you happen to be zooming past it.  This game is exploration porn and the suit gives you enough tools to be able to get pretty much anywhere.

The Suits

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Another huge positive of the game is that the Javelins all feel different.  In Destiny for the most part it is all about gun-play with your supers and abilities adding flavor to the experience…  which quite honestly the jumps being the biggest differentiation between the classes.  In Anthem the Ranger is effectively your Destiny style class with grenades and a super and a weird weapon ability…  mixed in with a wide range of weapons.  As a result I really really love the Ranger because it is what I was looking for in a game.  However the other classes are playing totally different games…  with the Colossus being sort of a Reinhardt shield tank that happens to have the heaviest weapons but pays a penalty in movement because of it and completely loses the over-shield in favor of a physical barricade.  The storm is legitimately a caster and will spend most of its time in the air casting elemental attacks down on opponents rather than spending a ton of time shooting the weapons.  The interceptor feels like Zero from Borderlands… and is a literal Ninja and moves and has attacks that feel completely appropriate for that sort of game style…  but has a massive penalty to the amount of harm it can soak up.  When you are running with a balanced party the game feels extremely cool as each of the abilities feed off of each other, and in turn they all feel completely reasonable when moving around solo as well…  but also sort of dictate a different way of approaching problems.

Fort Tarsus

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Now we are going to loop back around to another negative.  While gorgeous as evidenced by this painting like screenshot from in game…  Fort Tarsus does not feel great to explore.  Now I realize a lot of the functionality was turned off completely during the demo… as we were constantly reminded any time we tried to interact with anything.  However shifting from third person suit mode to very slow first person human mode feels awkward and weird.  I mean I get what they were going for… they were trying to create a clear delineation between “mech mode” and “operator” mode.  The biggest problem that I tend to have is how freaking slow I move while running around without my suit.  The layout means that I am going to be traversing this location over and over as I do the functional things that are required to play the game…  which also means I am going to hear that same partial Bhangra synth loop over and over and over… side note if you stand there it doesn’t actually go anywhere and just keeps looping over the same little sample.  At a minimum I would like to see them give me a sprint option.

Characters and Story

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The demo does not really give you a lot to go on.  You are essentially sent on what feels like a side mission to recover a relic and then deal with the ramifications of using this weird tech.  However the brief amount of time that we got to spend with characters, makes me extremely hopeful for how this game is going to feel as a whole.  I already care about Zoe the mechanic who keeps my Javelin running and has a casual back and forth about how we are ALL her favorites.  Matthias my Arcanist also seems like someone I am going to be perfectly fine getting to know better through the course of the missions.  The dialog itself seems to be a simple A or B set of answers…  or in Mass Effect terms… Paragon or Renegade.  However so far in the most simple of interactions…  Zoe at the forge for example seems to remember what I have said before and use it in later dialog so there is some manner of branching already in place for the few instances it has come up.  NPCs that seem to remember our past interactions is going to go a long ways to making me feel more engaged with the game world as a whole.  This was something that would have helped Destiny quite a bit… if the NPCs remembered our past adventures.

In Summary

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As a whole I am really looking forward to playing Anthem legitimately, and I am booned that each of the AggroChat crew seemed to find some element or specific javelin that they really enjoyed.  I am hoping this very rough weekend helps them make the necessary tweaks for a successful launch.  Next weekend there is going to be another demo, but I think this time the floodgates are going to open a bit further.  I am going to hope that the various connection issues have been ironed out and that my tweaks to mouse settings continue to provide me a better than default experience.  If so…  I think Anthem is going to be a great experience.  That said I am preparing myself to weather the storm of a rough launch, and I have to give Bioware a lot of credit for taking to social media and Reddit early this weekend and trying to stay in constant communication as they were working through the issues.  This scores me a lot of points that they were being open about the struggles, and in the grand scheme the fact that they are listening is going to win them points with the community as a whole.  Ultimately this isn’t going to be the game for everyone… and if you already bounced off this style of game then it probably isn’t going to be the one that causes you to see the light.  However it does already appear to be welding the breach between the Destiny and Warframe factions of AggroChat, so I have hope that maybe it will be something we can all play together.

So if you took the time to play it this weekend, what were your thoughts?  I would love to hear them.