Regularly Playing: August Edition

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It has been most of the summer since I last updated my sidebar, and a lot of things have changed.  I figured it was high time that I true things up since we are just about to go into the school year, and starting to enter a pretty tightly packed release schedule for the rest of the year.  For those unfamiliar with this feature, I functionally talk about the things that I have added… the things that are remaining… and the things that I am ultimately removing from regular rotation.  I play a lot of games at any given time… and generally speaking the moment I update my sidebar…  I have a wild mood swing game wise that leads me somewhere completely differently.  So here goes nothing!

To Those Remaining

Final Fantasy XIV

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Since I last posted there has been a lot of movement in this game, namely the release of a new expansion called Stormblood.  As a result I swapped my Heavensward icon out for a Stormblood one.  As far as my time in the game…  I’ve reached 70 and 310+ gear on both my Warrior and my Samurai and have fallen off significantly in the amount of time I am actually playing.  There is still plenty to be done, and I want to get back in the swing of playing on a regular basis, however lately I am deep within my own turtle session which means I tend to be favoring games where I don’t have much of a crowd.  Still well within the realm of active games, just only logging in once or twice a day instead of devoting all of my time to it.

To The Returning and New

Guild Wars 2

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This is the first time since picking up the game at launch that I can legitimately say that I am really enjoying myself while playing this game.  For whatever reason it took five years to actually click with me, and now it is like discovering hidden treasure.  I am attempting to do all the things and it is fitting the bill really well because I don’t have much infrastructure in the game currently.  My current goal is reaching 100% in all of the old world zones, which I believe is one of the requirements for starting down the Legendary weapon rabbit hole.  Another huge boon for my enjoyment of the game is the fact that there are now proper beards for non-norn characters.

Rift

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To be honest since its release in 2011 it has never really been far off my radar.  Crawling back into Rift is like wrapping myself in a warm blanket, because it is so familiar.  In the past six years I’ve had highs and lows with the game, but I know that regardless I will always return and always be interested in whatever happens to be going on.  Recently during my turtle mode game play in general, I have been spending a bit of time trying to catch up and hit the Prophecy of Ahnket level cap.  I am also digging the tweaks I made to my default outfit.  Rift in many ways feels like this snapshot of what everyone wanted in a game around its release, and in some ways it is still ahead of its time.  In other ways though it feels like a time capsule to a time when MMO games were slower paced and more methodical.  I still find it enjoyable and am always proud to feature it on my sidebar when I am playing.

Diablo 3

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Another game that is never far off my radar is Diablo 3, and with us currently being in the thrall of another season…  it is obviously occupying some sidebar territory.  This is the first season to feature Necromancers and it has been hilarious to see literally bone spikes for days.  I really don’t have a whole lot to talk about the game because if by now you don’t get my attraction you probably never will.

World of Warcraft

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I have honestly all but stopped playing World of Warcraft, but I am keeping a space on my sidebar for it because of the RoboSquid Armada.  This is effectively our weird brain chain of trying to run every dungeon and raid in World of Warcraft at level in minimal gear.  Prior to the launch of Stormblood we had left off at Blackfathom Deeps and it seems like everyone is coalescing towards starting this up again.  I am more than happy to do some madness with my baby monk.

To Those Departing

Star Wars the Old Republic

If I am being completely honest… I have to say I love what this game has become.  I had this awesome time playing through the Shadows of Revan, Ziost and Fallen Empire content and then I sort of needed a break from deeply story driven gaming.  It was also around about this time that we were ramping up for the release of Stormblood.  At some point in the future when I need to completely dive into something wholly immersive… I will pick this back up and run through the Eternal Throne story line.  I still poke my head in from time to time, but not enough to keep it on the sidebar.

Horizon Zero Dawn

This is one of those games that I really need to finish, but I have a feeling by the time I ultimately get back around to it…  I will functionally need to restart the experience.  This game is a casualty of too many other games coming out at the same time… and ultimately its playtime got eaten up by Mass Effect Andromeda that for whatever reason clicked way harder with me than Horizon did.  I really enjoyed the game but I feel like I am going to have to be in the right frame of mind to actually return to it.

Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild

Another game that has fallen off the radar that I want to start back up at some point is Breath of the Wild.  Two things happened to harm this experience… firstly a bunch of other stuff got released.  Secondly… I picked up the switch and decided to restart the game.  I still play this occasionally but not enough to really keep it hanging out on the right side of the screen.

Secret Story of the Galaxy

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

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

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

 

Regularly Playing: May Edition

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

To Those Remaining

Final Fantasy XIV

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

To the Returning and New

Skyforge

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

Star Wars the Old Republic

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

Horizon Zero Dawn

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

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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

To Those Departing

World of Warcraft

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

Rift

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

Destiny

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

Guild Wars 2

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

 

 

 

 

Friendtime Storything

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Bel Folks Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Random Screenshots #4

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

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Chua Starting Area – Wildstar

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

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

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

Random Screenshots #3

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This is another one of those mornings when I feel like I don’t have much of anything to talk about.  Work encroached upon my gaming time, first with a meeting that I did not get out of until 6 pm…  when I normally get out of the office around 4/4:30.  Second when I did get home I had a bunch of things that I needed to look into given that we are still ironing out the issues with a brand new website launch.  As a result by the time I finished up I largely just crashed on the sofa and watched some Black Mirror as I had not touched season 3.  That show is extremely creepy, but also something that I cannot really stop watching.  It is a sort of technological tales of the crypt, and if you have never watched the show…  be prepared for some disturbing content.  That said it is still very much worth your time and the latest season has at least one gem scattered among the digital nightmares in the form of the San Junipero episode.  Anyways this morning is going to be a random screenshot post morning because I am not sure what else to really talk about.  I am still fairly groggy and probably shouldn’t have finished the 4th episode last night, and instead just headed on to bed.

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I am not entirely certain of the context, but this is of course a screenshot from Wildstar.  I believe it is from the moon mission where you have to figure out what happened to all of the miners.  Even though I have long struggled to really click with this game, I cannot deny how much of an interesting vision it really is.  The art direction was on point and everything feels like it exists in the same shared technicolor delusion.  For whatever reason I never really liked how spastic their flavor of hotbar combat felt.  Most recently I paid a little money to be able to create a Chua Warrior and I found it enjoyable…  but still not really clicking as hard as I would have liked.  Honestly this game and Guild Wars 2 sort of exist in the same space for me…  where they are equally interesting to visit but not exactly the same of place I want to call home.  I will say though that the people who do play the game regularly are amazing and I am super happy to have a whole bunch of them occupying my social media streams.  This is one of those games that I root hard for…  just from a distance.

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We go from a game that I don’t really get fully, to one that I absolutely do…  but still don’t end up playing that often.  I believe this screenshot is from one of the opening shots of Makeb which was the sequence of content I last played during a December 2015 binge of the game thanks to Force Awakens Star Wars hype.  I honestly thought I would similarly return during the Rogue One hype machine but it never actually materialized.  I realize I am missing so much great content, and I keep saying that one of these days when I hit a lull in whatever other games I happen to be playing that I will swoop back to Star Wars the Old Republic and gobble up all of the goodies I have missed.  I still have yet to start any of the Shadow of Revan content…  let alone Fallen Empire or Eternal Throne.  I did have an active sub, but I let that lapse at some point…  they keep roping me in with offers of “subs get X shiny bauble” and then I never actually end up playing.  I should in theory pop back in before this last bit of sub time lapses and I am stuck playing in freemium hell.

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On to yet another game that I have really fond memories of but never end up playing.  This is I believe a screenshot from one of the betas for The Secret World.  To the best of my knowledge this was me creating my very first character.  To be truthful I never was a huge fan of the character creation system in TSW, as it always felt like I never could create exactly the character that I wanted to create.  However on so many levels I loved this game, but the biggest problem is attempting to return to it.  Since you can repeat almost every quest it becomes extremely hard to see just what you have completed and what is new and something you should focus on.  When they release an issue I find it hard to actually track down all of the things that have been added and given that I last actively played during “Last Train to Cairo” which was issue number six… and they are currently on fifteen there is a ton of content I have missed.  I just find it extremely hard to get back into the game after being gone for so long…  and given all of the systems that they have seemingly loosely tacked onto the base experience.

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I don’t have an awful lot to say about this screenshot other than I thought it looked cool, so I decided to post it.  This is of course from Farcry 3 Blood Dragon, which is this insane 80s movie romp.  If you took every 80s sci-fi film and distilled it to its campy roots, then dumped all of that pure essence in a blender…  you wind up with Blood Dragon.  If you have never checked it out, you probably really should given that it regularly dips down into the $5 territory.  It is a completely stand alone experience and does not require Farcry…  nor does it really have anything to do with the Farcry Franchinse at all other than modeling some of the open world roaming gameplay.

 

Think of the Children

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For the majority of last week I talked about games that I had played at PAX South, and in truth there are still a handful more than I want to discuss.  I think that is the real triumph of this years show, that I walked away with so many things that I found interesting enough to write entire posts about.  Granted in my super meandering way I end up talking about a lot of things other than the game during each of them.  Today is not going to change that.  In 2016 the most memorable game at PAX South for me was a game called Ultimate Chicken Horse.  In fact this was the sort of experience that I kept dragging people back by the booth to check out for themselves.  I don’t have a ton of opportunities to do the whole couch co-op party game thing, and it seems that when I actually do get that opportunity I want to take advantage.  I even wrote a couple of different posts about my thoughts talking about just how fresh and interesting the experience was.  Now I did not expect to find another game like this, but it seems like it found me.

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Ultimately I think I happened to stare a little too long at a booth as I was passing by, and within moments was engaged by someone talking about a game called “Think of the Children”.  Admittedly we had not shifted into “lets play all the games” mode yet, and this game was a good part of that mental shift for me at least.  The idea apparently came out of a recent game jam and was being groomed into a full game.  The concept was simple enough…  that you are parents and have to try and take care of a bunch of children.  The challenge comes in when you find out that the children are essentially lemmings.  They have no survival instinct and instead of simply slowly marching towards the edge of the a cliff… they are going to actively go find danger.  The kids might decide it is super awesome to go try and pet a jellyfish… and get stung to death, or mess with a bird…  and get pecked to death.  Essentially these little buggers are constantly trying to kill themselves and you as the parents are trying desperately to corral or distract them long enough to make it through the timer without losing any of your charges.

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This turns out to be exceedingly difficult, and just as you seem to have one group of kids under control…  another group goes off and does something truly horrible.  Essentially you have a few tools for managing the children…  you can either pick them up and move them away from danger… or shout at them which effects every child in range for a super short period of time…  before they go right back to doing whatever horrible thing they were planning on doing.  You can also temporarily distract children by setting up tables, or deploying a pinata.  I found myself largely throwing children away from harm while Rae who was playing with me attempted to set up the distractions.  Regardless I was an extremely bad parent and my first time out of the gate I got an F-…  and on attempt two I upgraded that to a D.  Let me just tell you that was the proudest I had ever been of getting a D in my life.

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Sure the game is morbid as hell, given that inevitably some of your children are going to die horrible and stupid deaths.  However the gameplay was so fast paced and frenetic that we spent most of our time yelling unintelligible sentence fragments at each other while desperately trying to keep yet another child from going and playing in traffic.  I mean there is a clear reason why I am not a parent of anything but animals…  because in truth animals have way more survival instinct than proto-humans.  Where the game shines is when you are sitting there playing co-op with one of your friends, and if I had an opportunity to do this often I would absolutely suggest this game in your rotation of what I term “party games”.  One of the cool things that happens at PAX in general is that you wind up striking conversations with random people while waiting in lines.  Each and every time this happened to me it ultimately got down to talking about our favorite games of the show, and this is the game that I kept sending people out into the world to find.  It was tucked into a quiet row and was ultimately rather unassuming, but man was it a great experience to play.  Even though I don’t have a lot of opportunity for couch co-op I am still going to pick this up for no reason other than to support what is ultimately a really cool game idea.  If you find yourself interested in this madness you can check out the official website, or do what I did and just add it to my wishlist on Steam.

Advanced Spellcraft

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I’ve talked about quite a few things that I experienced at Pax South, and this mornings post is going to do some more of the same.  I feel like this year more than others I walked away with a treasure trove of things I wanted to talk about.  I guess in theory it is because I approached the convention significantly differently than I have in past years.  In the past I largely only stood in line to play the games that immediately seemed to be in my wheelhouse, and as a result I am sure I robbed myself of a whole slew of interesting things.  The game I want to talk about this morning is a prime example of not being able to rely on our instincts and tastes.  If you have read my blog for any length of time you will know that I do not handle “finger wigglers” that well… or to clarify my own personal slang…  spell casters.  So when I walked past a booth demonstrating a game where the main character is slinging spells left and right, my first instinct is to keep moving.  However as a group we stopped and listened to the intricate tale that CEO Louis-Félix Cauchon had to weave.  Admittedly what make this game so interesting is just how detailed the spell system is.  We got to watch a twenty minute demo covering nothing but how the spell system works, before even getting into the awesome pedigree of the storytelling.

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Functionally your character has four spells, which in itself doesn’t seem like a lot.  However each spell can be modified with what I have been generically calling “mutators” to change the way it responds.  So you might have a spell that at face value is a small point blank spark, however by equipping a a behavior you can make it fire out like a fireball…  or by equipping an augment you can make it veer to the right after firing it.  If you suddenly decide that you don’t want to throw fireballs… but instead iceballs, you can simply go in and change the base element of the attack.  Over the course of this demo of the system we got to see personal shields turn into charge attacks, and glorious cascades of rock from the ceiling in place of a traditional blizzard spell.  Now you might ask yourself why on each you would need this level of detail for a spell system apart from the simple “wouldn’t it be cool” aspect.  Functionally the magic not only serves as a weapon, but also as a complex puzzle system.  So there might be switches that you cannot reach unless you modify your fireball to arc in a certain way in order to hit the trigger.  The spellbook also allows you to save off several different configurations of a spell, and in the final version you will be able to give them unique names allowing you to quickly recognize which version of a given spell is your avalanche and which is your frost barrier.  The only immediate limit to building insane combination spells is your imagination, and of course your mana bar.  Each trait that you give a spell increases its cost, and while it was described that this matters less and less as you go through the game… it does limit your early tinkering.  Additionally as you play through the game you find modifiers along the way, meaning your palette of abilities starts small and grows as you progress.

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Up to this point we have literally just talked about the technical spell casting system, which in itself is a pretty amazing game.  On top of this however they have added what is sure to be a pretty great story.  Ed Greenwood of Forgotten Realms fame has penned the story for this game about epic spellcasters, which only makes sense given that he gave us the character of Elminster.  Functionally I heard the game described as Harry Potter meets Zelda and that seems fitting, with a huge alteration in that there seems to be a lot more physical puzzle solving with your spells.  I find it so bizarre though that I am looking forward to the release of a game about magic users, and that includes absolutely zero armor clad characters for me to bash baddies in the head with.  At face value this game is traditionally far out of my wheelhouse, but it was also quite possibly the freshest feeling game concept I saw on the Pax floor.  We’ve done so much for martial combat and making it feel interesting and nuanced, but have done so little to bring that same level of nuance to weaving complex spells.  Most games give us the option of push button throw fireball, or push button create bubble…  but this is the first that I have seen that lets you take that bubble and then project it outwards or trigger another spell after the bubble casts.  I have this feeling that in many ways it will have an almost metroidvania feel in that each time you unlock a new ability to give you spells it is also going to open up new ways to solve puzzles and allow you to move deeper into the content.

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The game right now is targetted for PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One and does not have a firm launch date… but we heard March or April mentioned which I largely translated into a “Spring” launch window that might be plus or minus a month.  They are doing something extremely interesting to get us into the world ahead of the launch by releasing a comic that updates Tuesdays and  Thursdays and explains the world and setting.  I love it when I experience a game like this, not necessarily because “woo spellcasters” or anything of the sort, but because this is clearly the love child of a bunch of folks who care deeply about it.  Talking to Louis-Félix Cauchon within second it was clear to see just how passionate he was about this game, and the work and imagination that went into creating it.  That in truth is what makes the convention experience special.  You get to meet the creators face to face and see just how much they love what they are doing.  In many ways it feels like Pax South recharges the spark inside of me each year, and gives me fuel to keep going throughout the year.  We spend so much time on the negatives, the little details that bother us about this game or that.  However seeing a game like Mages of Mystralia shows me instantly that there very much still is magic out there…  pun only slightly intended.  I would definitely add this to your watch list and check it out when it ultimately releases.  I find it so bizarre that of all of the games I have experienced, this one ranks insanely high on the list of “wish I had early access” titles, if for no reason other than to play with the spell crafting system.  This is the first release from Borealys Games, but if they can pour this much passion into every project they are going to be a studio we see lots of amazing things from in the future.

Them Apples

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What has been bizarre to me has been just how different the three years of Pax South have felt personally.  During year one I was completely overwhelmed and did my best to hit as many panels as I could while also making a bunch of media appointments.  During year two we had roughly sixteen people roaming around in groups of various sizes, so my focus was to spend as much time as possible with as many people as possible.  I was also overwhelmed but in a completely different way, with trying to juggle meeting up with folks while also hitting scheduled media appointments.  Year three I completely cut the whole parking debacle out of the loop which greatly relaxed the entire experience.  Additionally we went from having sixteen to roughly seven… with two pairs of those largely roaming together and leaving me with a semi regular group of three people.  This opened up so many doors because three is not an unreasonable amount of people to sit down and demo something together with, and as a result I played way more games during the course of the show.  So many that I never actually made it off the main floor or attended any panels.  In truth this felt like the best possible thing because it gave me lots of interesting experiences to come back and shamelessly milk for blog posts.  It also let me spend maximum time with my friends while attempting to extract the maximum enjoyment.  It did nothing for my longevity unfortunately with me making my way back to the hotel around 6 or 7 both nights to hang with my wife and decompress from the days event.

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Of the really awesome games that I played, I think the very first that I sat down to play as a group is a card game called Wicked Apples.  At first I watched a couple of my group play it together, and when they finished the first round got dealt in for round two.  The idea is simple and the card game itself extremely small… I have not counted but it seems like maybe the card deck as a whole is maybe around 35 cards.  What I like so much about the game however is just how quickly it can be played.  One of the big challenges with most modern tabletop games is that they take a fair bit of time to set up, play and break back down.  In most cases you need a dedicated hour or more to really feel like you have enjoyed the experience.  At work I have been kicking around the notion of doing some tabletop gaming at lunch, especially since I have a coworker that is way deeper into the weeds than I am in the board gaming community.  However the challenge that is what sorts of games can you realistically play in a 30-40 minute window and get enough hands in to make it feel like you actually accomplished something.  When I saw Wicked Apples I immediately thought that this game would be perfect for this scenario because each hand seemed to last around ten to fifteen minutes depending on how much stalling from the players.

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The game consists of barrel cards, wicked apple cards matching each barrel color, and an assortment of unique apple cards that each have specific effects on them.  The game starts by dealing out barrels to each of the players… or in our case simply choosing whatever color you wanted to play.  That player the is handed the wicked apple of a color matching their barrel, as well as three random apple cards dealt face down.  The goal is to take these four cards and arrange them in any order in front of you face down… but at the same time memorize the position of each card.  The goal of the game is not to eat a wicked apple, be it your own or another players.  After setup the turn order is determined by the number on the players bucket from lowest to highest, but later in the game this will be determined by the top apple in each players bucket.  Each player can take one of two actions:  Peak or Pass.  Peak essentially means that you can secretly check to verify what apple is sitting in a given slot in front of you, and Pass means that you can take any one of your apples and give it to any other player.  After all players have either chosen to Peak or Pass, everyone has to choose an apple that they are going to eat that round.  If you are doing this right then all players reveal their apple at exactly the same time…  however we were pretty awful at doing this and wound up being a slow staggered reveal.  The eating order is determined by the number in the top right corner of the card, and each player performs the actions on their card if possible taking turns in ascending order.  The “if possible” is in there because there are situations where for example you have no apples… and as a result cannot say pass an apple as directed by the card.

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The game carries on like this until one of two things happen… either only one player is left standing at the end of a round where in that case they are the winner.  There is also the possibility that ALL players are eliminated in the same round, and essentially everyone loses.  Whatever the case, once you know the rules of the game it goes extremely quickly and I could see playing a bunch of round rapid fire in a short period of time.  There is functionally a lot of strategy and bluffing involved in what is essentially a game of memory.  Do you pass a good apple to the player beside you and think that ultimately they are going to assume you gave them your wicked apple?  Are you going to pass your wicked apple and then follow up by lacing it with the Candy Apple that forces a player to eat that apple next?  I absolutely did that last move, while also passing the poison apple to another player that round functionally executing both of them.  It is absolutely a game where you know every other players is going to back stab you and do so constantly, so the ramifications of this realization become greatly blunted and just part of the fun.  The individual decks at Pax South were $15, and I went back and forth on Friday about picking one up.  However one of the first things I did Saturday morning was run back and purchase one, and I am super glad that I did.  It seems as though they sold their last deck sometime early Sunday morning, and apparently this was their entire current stock as there are zero available through the website either currently.  So yeah… I guess it is probably cruel to tell you about a game that you literally cannot get at this very moment, but I still enjoyed it enough that I wanted to talk about it.  Like I said before I personally plan on taking my deck with me to work and trying a few hands over lunch to see how well it works.  It is easy to pick up and fast paced enough that I can see this doing really well with a wide variety of players.  If you have the chance to check it out in any upcoming shows I highly suggest you do so.

 

Embracing Chaos

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There are games from my childhood that I will always have an odd amount of nostalgia about.  There are the obvious ones like Zelda and Mario… but then there are the ones where I latched onto with both hands and never quite understood why.  Chaos Engine is one of those games in the second column because by all rights… it was not really a popular game in the United States.  We never really had the massive Amiga Culture here that the UK did… and while I owned one… I didn’t get it until my college years for use with Digital Video production.  However I did own a Sega Genesis and we did get Chaos Engine released under the confusing re-branding of Soldiers of Fortune.  I played the hell out of the game but didn’t realize what I had been missing… because while a completely functional port it is in no way as good as the original.  I bought my Amiga 3000 second hand… and it came with a box of crudely labelled Amiga floppies.  One of which was called Chaos Engine, and when I fired it up… I felt immediately at home.  The original Amiga game was so much better in every way than the port I was familiar with, and most importantly was the music.  I’ve included a video I found of the game intro running on an A500.  The game was essentially an isometric shooter but a much more interesting one than say Commando or Ikari Warriors.  It allowed you to pick from a cast of characters…  the Brigand, the Gentleman, the Mercenary, the Navvie, the Preacher and The Thug.  Each with their own strengths and unique weapons, and also added a small bit of RPG style progression as you could use the money found in each level to purchase buffs to further customize the way the character played.  Even today I have purchased every copy of this game that has come out…  from a Windows 95 CD version that no longer functions to the more recent release on Steam.

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While roaming around the floor at Pax South I came across what I could only describe as the logical successor.  Tower 57 is a game that I didn’t even know existed before this convention.  It apparently was on Kickstarter during August of 2015 and managed to raise roughly 55k dollars.  Had I known about the game then I would have likely backed it, even though my track record with video game kickstarters is not that amazing.  The game website describes it as:

In a dystopian, dieselpunk world, where Megatowers are the only enclaves of civilization, a group of extraordinary individuals is sent to infiltrate the reclusive Tower 57. Their skills, clips’ capacity & the ability to cooperate will decide on their fate.

Tower 57 is a top-down twin stick shooter with 16-bit inspired pixel art, destructible environments and heavy focus on co-op. It is also a modern take on what made AMIGA games so great back in the days.

What it felt like was a sort of Shadowrun meets Chaos engine, with a similarly interesting cast of characters.  Unfortunately I didn’t actually get to start fresh when I gave the game I try… but it seems like I could largely pick  between a female detective wearing a trechcoat and using a shotgun, and the diplomat which is a guy that looks like Abraham Lincoln with a flame thrower.  The game has all the right quirky notes that Chaos Engine did, and a similarly Victorian Era meets Steampunk meets 1920s speakeasy feel to it.  The artwork is absolutely gorgeous and the movement of the characters felt fluid, with interesting and challenging monsters that you encountered.  In the Pax South demo it seemed to largely be locked to the sewer level, and I was amped to see the gameplay unfold very similarly to what I expected with Chaos Engine.  Essentially doing something in one area of the map might unlock a secret area in another corner of the map, but also spawned multiple waves of mobs that you then needed to clear.

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The game is functionally a twinstick shooter, and the demo was played with xbox one controllers.  After a short period of time though I adjusted and managed to play my way through the level and get up to the mini boss at the end of it.  Ashgar managed to beat it… I however managed to take out the main encounter… then got super careless and died to something stupid on my way out of the room.  There was a line of folks waiting to take the controllers, so I stopped playing… but I would have loved to have had another shot at the game and tried playing some of the other characters.  Reportedly on both the game website and the steam profile the final version will include seven different playable characters, each with their own weapons and traits.  Another thing that I thought was really fun was the fact that the majority of the world appeared to be destructible.  Sure this serves a purpose with explosive barrels, but even when it serves no real purpose it is glorious to see the entire screen erupt in a hail of debris without actually slowing down the frame rate.  Reportedly the game will support local and online multiplayer co-op gameplay, which is admittedly something I am looking forward to.  I am probably going to convince Ashgar to play through the game with me some weekend…  which usually means he carries me super hard as I fail miserably somewhere in the background while looking for loot.

If anything I have said sounds interesting, I highly suggest you check out the game.  I have a huge amount of nostalgia for Chaos Engine and this game is riding heavily on that fact.  However Ashgar seemed to enjoy it just as much as I did, and he had never even heard of that game.  Right now the game has an ambiguous “Spring 2017” release date…  which to me means “any time before May” but to Square Enix apparently meant June when they were talking about Heavensward.  Whatever the case… the game felt really polished and hopefully that means the game will be available shortly.  You can pre-order now on Humble for $9.99 but to be honest I am more than likely going to wait for the steam release since I believe right now… humble disqualifies you from giving proper feedback on steam because it is not an “official purchase”.  To be honest the whole “steam purchase” versus “key redemption” thing is a mess when it comes to reviews.  Whatever the case it is definitely a game I enjoyed and I am ready to get my Chaos Engine game play back on.