Week In Gaming 8/30/2015

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Stressed but Still Here

This week turned out to be a shockingly stressful one, but thankfully all of said stress happened at work… and I could more or less leave it there as well.  There has been a twinge of sadness as well because months ago I had hoped to be able to attend Pax Prime and get to hang out with friends there.  However that didn’t quite work out, and since I lacked tickets to go there…  because AggroChat was not apparently qualified as a media outlet, I stopped pushing quite so hard.  The beginning of the school year is especially rough on my wife, and it would have been even more stressful to be travelling during this time.  As such I am doubting that Pax Prime will ever really be in my cards unless for some reason they decide to move it either earlier or later in the year.  I will always have Pax South however, and I fully intend to go this coming year.  I am going to be trying to talk as many people into attending as I can, and hopefully can organize a meetup or something while there.  There were plenty of people at Pax South last year but I was completely overwhelmed by it being my first real convention, and the internet was pretty horrible…  so I missed most of them.  Anyways…  on with what is I hope becoming a Sunday tradition, where I review the games I played over the past week.

Final Fantasy XIV

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Currently “The Rising” event is going on in Final Fantasy XIV that marks the yearly anniversary festival.  This year the quest that goes along with it is one of the most touching quests I have experienced in a game before.  I don’t want to spoil too many details about it, but suffice to say there is a little bit of fourth wall breaching going on.  Diehard Final Fantasy XIV fans have this hero worship for Naoki Yoshida and the rest of the team, and it is absolutely well earned.  It feels like there is very much a symbiotic relationship going on there, and they understand fully just how important the loyal fans are to the continued success of the title.  The game is in this interesting place where it is extremely humbled by the fact that it launched in 2010 and failed to capture hearts and minds.  They are putting everything into the game and leaving nothing on the table, and it shows.  Other than the anniversary event we worked on Ravana Extreme attempts, and I have every hope that we will be able to down him this coming Monday.  Past that I have honestly been taking a bit of a break from Final Fantasy XIV, or at least not really logging in every day.

Diablo 3

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If you are wondering where the bulk of my game time was spent, you can look no further than Diablo 3.  I am not sure if it was my time playing Hellgate London, or the fact that I finally pulled my head out of the sand and realized there was such a thing as a “season”.  Whatever the combination I have been pumped to be playing Diablo 3 again and have been spending a lot of time with my friend Grace was we worked on pushing up our seasonal characters.  At the beginning of the week I managed to get my Crusader from last season to 70 with the help of Grace and her crazy torment farming ways.  Then Friday when the new season opened I started work immediately on a female Barbarian.  As of last night I am now level 60 and making the final push to 70.  That is really what I intend to spend most of my time today working on, and hopefully by tonight I will be sitting at 70 and starting to work on gearing up for doing torment and beyond.  I am having a blast, and I am not sure whatever mental block cleared that has allowed me to get involved once more with the click to attack madness.

Wildstar

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I can’t say that I have made stellar progress since last week, but I am continuing with my new tradition of trying to play Wildstar Tuesday nights.  At this point I am level 25 still in Whitevale but I think maybe I can see the end of the zone.  My hope is to move on past it this week and hopefully into something less desolate.  I feel about Whitevale the way I feel about most desert zones in MMOs.  I have come to realization this week that it is never the biome necessarily that I like or dislike, but instead the zone design.  I was warned that Malgrave is coming up, and a desert… but from what I have seen of the imagery inside it seems like something I will enjoy.  I want to devote more time to this game, but for now I am going to settle with making it a Tuesday night thing.

Hearthstone

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The game that I played that shocked me the most this week was Hearthstone.  I have not really spent much time playing it since release, and with the addition of a new expansion of cards I decided to poke my head in.  This is where I found a brand new game mode called Tavern Brawl.  Apparently you have a different weekly challenge, and this week was essentially playing with a randomized deck.  I played hunter and had a good amount of success.  Playing with a random assortment of cards, including many of the brand new Grand Tournament cards gave me a nostalgic feeling much like the early days of Magic the Gathering.  I used to love the days when I was limited based on the  cards I physically owned and as a result made some odd decks to try and weave in my favorite elements.  In truth I would probably play Hearthstone more often if this random brawl option thing was a fixed item.  I know this coming week there will be a completely different Tavern Brawl, but I will likely poke my head in to see what it is and give it a shot.  This might breathe new life into the game for me, and for that I am kinda pumped.

Fallout Shelter

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My week in review would not be complete without at least talking a bit about Fallout Shelter.  Now I have been technically playing this game for awhile now but since I do not regularly use my iPad, the sessions were limited and I went weeks between opening the app.  With the release of Fallout Shelter for android I have been playing it far more often on my phone, and it has now become my default “moment of downtime” game as I check in on my little post apocalyptic ant farm.  All things said I learned a lot of lessons playing it on the iPad that I have now applied to this new vault.  Where Vault 999 was a relative failure, Vault 861 is pretty damned idyllic.  Through a bit of luck of drops, and some careful planning I have managed to create a pretty safe environment that can absolutely shred raider attacks.  I had a random person show up at the vault that was fairly warriorly, and once I equipped her with power armor and a plasma pistol she has been roaming the wastes dispensing justice.  At the same time she has become a major source of income and the gear she brings back I am slowly outfitting all of my settlers in.  I have jokingly started calling the restaurant on the first floor Cafe Death, because the raiders always go there…. only to get shredded by all of my shotgun toting vault dwellers.  The only thing that I feel bad about is that I essentially  have one couple that is slowly populating my vault.  I have left them in the room for weeks now and they have half a dozen offspring roaming around as a result.

Hatoful Boyfriend

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The last game that I played a significant amount of this week was of course Hatoful Boyfriend, and last night we recorded the AggroChat game club show for it.  This was Grace’s pick and I think a lot of us went into this assuming that we would end up hating the game.  We were mostly wrong as the vast majority of us had lots of good things to say about the game. To make it even crazier this is the first game that the majority of us have actually played through more than one… but given that an individual play session tends to only be around the hour long mark that makes sense.   If you want to hear our length discussion about dating “Birbs” after the apocalypse you should totally listen into the show.

[AggroChat] [Direct Download] [iTunes] [Stitcher]

Everybirdie Knows!

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The Hunter Gatherer

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This morning I am getting a bit of a late start because the weather is dreary out and everything seems to distract me.  I’ve had to contend with the kitten knocking all manner of things onto the ground from the cabinets, and the other two cats intent upon pinning my arms down so that I can’t effectively type.  As a result I am getting a later than usual start on composing my morning blog post.  This mornings post is going to be inspired by the sheer madness that Grace has bestowed upon me.  What I am saying.. is everything is her fault.  For those who have been following me over the last few days, you will know that the August AggroChat Game of the month is the bizarre bird dating sim Hatoful Boyfriend.  I had been avoiding playing it so that I could stream my first moments, and finally the stars aligned for me having enough time to devote my attention to doing just that.  Since this is a largely text based game, I figured I would act out the dialog as best I could.  I set a time for 6pm last night, and I had an awesome audience of friends joining in the fun.  I only actually made it through one play through however because by the end of all of that talking…  my throat was killing me.

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What can I say about Hatoful Boyfriend that has not already been said.  The game is completely insane.  You play the role of a “Hunter-Gatherer” human girl, having to fit into bird society and attending Saint Pidgeonations a prestigious school….  for you know…  Birds.  If that premise itself was not insane enough…  in order to make progress in the game you have to develop a relationship with one of a cast of different birds.  From what I understand if you have failed to gain the attention of at least one suitor by a certain point… the game just ends.  From start to finish it takes about an hour to play, and last nights play through ended up running about a hour and twelve minutes in total.  The game while short…  has a lot of replay-ability as apparently there are secret endings that you can only unlock through repeated plays of the game.  Having done this or that ending unlocks new options, and at this point I have completed the game three times and unlocked a total of three different endings as well as a bonus romance of sorts.

Birb Boyfriend

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While absolutely none of this sounds like a game I would be interested in… there is something quirky and infectious about the game that makes you want to keep playing to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes.  One of the nice features of the game is that there is a fast forward of sorts that lets you skip through some of the often long sequences of dialog that require no player action.  In truth you are only really making a few choices per game session, and watching the events of those decisions play out before you.  In many ways some aspects of it remind me of Persona 4 Golden, which is a game I need to return to playing at some point.  I keep hearing there is an actual “bad” ending, but I have yet to find it.  In many ways playing this game feels like the first time I watched the movie Brazil, with even stranger and more surreal experiences the longer I kept playing.  In fact this morning I actually got up and started playing again, so maybe I am not hooked on the insanity?

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If nothing else it is going to make for a very interesting AggroChat in a few weeks when we record that episode.  I feel like so far maybe Grace has done the best job of picking a game title that generates conversation.  I feel like There Came an Echo probably would have as well if I did not suffer so many technical problems that kept me from finishing the game.  Thalen also has an interesting game picked for us, so I think the next few months are going to be a blast as far as the Game Club goes.  I had a lot of fun recording the play through of this game, and it was so damned bizarre trying to act out the different birds.  I stumbled pretty massively on some of the names and had to rely on some assistance from Ashgar a few times.  However I made it through and now at least have some fodder to talk about for the show.  I am not sure how many more endings I will try and unlock before we record but I still have some time.  The gameplay goes fast enough, and in many ways it is like a train wreck…  you just can’t help but keep watching it.  As someone who went into “Birb Boyfriend” as deeply skeptical, I highly suggest everyone pick this title up and give it a chance.  It is just too damned strange not to experience it for yourself.  If you want to watch my play through if you missed the live stream I embedded the video below.

So Many Sads

Storming the Castle

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-27 23-24-20-51 This morning I admit that I have been struggling to figure out what to write about.  It is not from a lack of material, but a conscious effort to filter myself.  Last night I leapt over a content wall in Final Fantasy XIV and it was quite possibly the best dungeon experience I have had since first stepping foot into Deadmines back in 2004.  It was so over the top amazing, that it is hard to put into words much about it because quite simply I do not want to ruin the story for anyone.   Square Enix has somehow managed to capture all of the magic of Scarlet Monastery, distill everything that made it fun… and then amply that and unleash it onto the world.  The dungeon design is vastly different than anything else I have seen in Final Fantasy XIV to this point.  On one level it almost feels like a kung fu action movie, where you are deluged with impossible odds yet somehow manage to hold things together enough to keep moving forward.  The fourth dungeon in the game is now the pinnacle of “storming the castle” experiences for me.

What makes it so amazing is the fact that the dungeon is set up by some truly phenominal storytelling.  By the time you reach this point in the story arc, you feel like righteous avengers off to save the day.  I had been stalled on this dungeon for awhile, but had been holding back doing it so that I could do it with a full guild group.  Kodra managed to get caught up last night, and the two of us entered with two others that were gleeful in keeping silent about the tactics of the dungeon.  Somehow we made it through, and our raider instincts kicked in enough to keep us from doing anything too stupid.  It is funny how those instincts are now fairly universal regardless of what encounter a game throws at you.  Final Fantasy XIV does an excellent job of messaging things you should avoid or at least take note of… and when it down… get the hell out.

So Many Sads

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Does this picture not just break your heart?  This is the saddest Bel I have ever seen in this game.  So not only does it excel at giving you moment after moment of excitement… it can also manage to punch you in the gut when the story turns in a sad direction.  Things happened…  things that made us sad, and the game is doing an awesome job of letting us know it.  Not to mention me the person behind the screen was effected by these events too, so it feels reassuring in a way to see my on screen facsimile struggling with the events as well.  I cannot expound upon just how amazing the experience of Heavensward has been so far, with the storyline from last season picking up and continuing where we left off.  I call it a “season” because really that is what it feels like.  The original 1.0 launch was Season 1, A Realm Reborn was Season 2… and now we are entering the Third Season of this really awesome television show… where I absolutely cannot wait to see what happens next.  It is a game like this that makes me feel like a game can both be engaging and deeply narrative at the same time.  I feel like I am telling the story… more than I usually do in a story driven experience.  Sure the story is happening to me…  but I identify so completely with my character.

YoshiOnFFXIV The thing is this feeling we are having is apparently completely intentional.  The above quote is from a ZAM video interview with Yoshi P from E3.  It is very clear that he feels like he is stilling one large episode of the same story, and as a result all of the little elements and people that you meet along the way have a lasting importance.  Just because you go several levels without seeing someone, does not mean they will not show up at some point in the future.  The characters in this world have their own destinies and do not just support that of the main character.  Everyone has an agenda and are given the latitude to shift in and out of the focus of what we ultimately view as the “main story”.  Ashgar and I were talking for a bit last night and he made the comment that there is enough story content in here to make an actual “traditional” Final Fantasy game.  Thinking about this I absolutely agree and in many ways this sort of storytelling that we are experiencing is the same sort of storytelling we saw in Final Fantasy VI for example… where characters shift in and out of your party but you are constantly moving forward towards an end goal.  This time we the player character are the constant in a world that is constantly changing around us.AggroChat

AggroChat 63 – There Came an Echo Show

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Last night we recorded the sixty third episode of AggroChat and the fifth AggroChat Game Club game show.  This time around it was Kodra’s pick a quirky voice controlled story driven RTS called There Came an Echo.  My experience was vastly different than the rest of my co-hosts, but it seems that pretty much everyone other than Kodra and Tam had some measure of technical difficulties with this title.  For example Thalen, Ash and I were all missing significant UI elements during our play throughs.  Several of us had to content with moments when the game seemed to just stop accepting voice input commands as well.  I however had the most issues with the game constantly crashing on me.  There was no point when I was able to actually load anything without the game going unresponsive and having to hit the “wait for program” button in the hopes that maybe just maybe it would wake the hell up and start working again.  As I said I was the only person who had issues quite that severely, and I am hoping that maybe this is just a bad patch as they recently rolled one out.

The positive however is it has good enough story and voice acting to make me futz with this game for two hours trying to make it work for me.  During the course of they show the folks that did manage to beat the game exposed all the spoilery content and I got enough of a feel for how the story goes that I really want to see it play out.  At the very least I am planning on watching a play through, and preferably one without much streamer dialog to preserve as much of the voice acting experience as I can.  The one I was watching for a bit yesterday kept talking over the character dialog… which kinda ruined the experience.  This game feels very much like a tech demo with good story and voice acting… and I would love to see this same level of effort taken and expanded into a more traditional game experience.  Sure this voice control thing is somewhat neat, but I hate talking to devices.  Devices like the Amazon Echo, Siri and even my own Google Phone experience are lost on me… because the last thing I want to do is talk to my device to have it do something for me.  The voice control was deeply awkward for me, but your mileage may vary…  Kodra and Tam both seemed to enjoy it greatly.

Nineteen Years

AggroChat 59 – The Shadowrun Dragonfall Show

Last night we got the folks together to record the fourth AggroChat game club show, this time devoted to Tamrielo’s pick.  Shadowrun: Dragonfall is the second game in the Shadowrun: Returns series from the wildly successful kickstarter process.  While the first game focused mostly on getting the engine correct, this game focuses more on weaving an interesting narrative in the Shadowrun setting.  In tonights show we delve deep into the game and talk about the various choices we made while playing it.  Please be warned this is a full spoiler show, and we will talk about some of the plot twists and the alternate choice paths that you can make in the game.  I highly suggest that if you intend to play this game,  that you revisit this show after doing so as not to spoil any of the content.

 

This title is auspicious for various reasons, primarily because it is the first title that everyone joining in the show either beat or came extremely close to beating it.  Kodra and I started recording tonight and during the course of the show actually defeated it.  Ash however is in the final stretch making him only about thirty minutes away.  The other extremely unique thing about this game is it is quite literally the first game we have played that we all were able to give a big thumbs up to.  Join us next month for Kodra’s title as well called There Came an Echo, which is a voice controlled real time strategy game… that is certain to lead to some strange conversations.  Additionally if you played Shadowrun: Dragonfall along with us, please head over to AggroChat.com and drop the team a line with what you thought about the game.

Nineteen Years

It was roughly nineteen years ago yesterday that my wife and I first got together as a couple.  In truth we use May 30th as a close approximation of our “dating anniversary” because honestly neither of us really know the EXACT date.  For the most part we consider it to be the more important anniversary and try and at least acknowledge it every year.  We are not big into gifts and never really have been.  We tend to label things we were already going to get as “anniversary gifts” after the fact.  Like apparently the wooden rocking chair I got my wife awhile back is her anniversary gift, and according to my wife my new SUV and the used iPad 2 I will be getting Monday is my gift.  It seems like I made out like a bandit until you learn how we spent our anniversary.

Friday was the last day with kids for my wife and thus begins the yearly ritual of packing up her room.  This year however it is a bit more stressful for her because she is having to entirely vacate her cubical.  When they moved into the building they created this “collaboration room” for the teachers, and set it up in quite possibly the least collaborative method known to man…  the office cube farm.  This summer however it seems like they finally got the memo and are going to tear down the cube farm and replace it with a much more open shared workspace.  That said she has to completely move out of both her own personal cube and another cube for a program she manages.  So yesterday I spent my anniversary packing up these cubes in boxes and moving them as she worked on packing away stuff in her classroom.  It is not the most glamorous anniversary in the world but it was me helping her be less stressed so I think in the grand scheme of things it was a win.

End of School Stress

There are times in life when I have to fight my nature.  I tend to be fairly protective of my friends and family, and I especially feel protective of my wife.  She is a strong badass of a woman, who does not need me to fight her battles for her… but there are occasions when that instinct still kicks in.  Part of the reason she is so damned stressed right now revolves around an event that happened Friday night.  She is a rockstar of a teacher, and I mean that in every sense of the word.  She will fight for these kids and bend over backwards to try and make sure they are doing whatever they need to be doing.  This week was one of those cases where she bent over backwards to try and make sure one of her students was doing what they needed to be doing.  The problem being this isn’t always appreciated and sometimes misguided parents can add to her stress level.

It is extremely hard for me to see her in the frustrated state she was in Friday.  Every fiber of my being wants to protect her from the people who were stressing her out.  Thankfully school is over and due to the extremely supportive administration things will work themselves out.  But for the time being she has been wrestling with whether she did the right thing, or enough to help her students.  For this reason and many others I am happy to help her try and at least get one stress out of the way.  I know I would not be half the teacher she is, because quite frankly if I had to deal with half of the things she suffers with a smile…  I would have gone postal a long time ago.  She however has a level of dedication that can only be admired and respected.  So I spent our anniversary packing up boxes, moving file folders, and moving it around the building.  It might not be a glamorous chain of events, but if it lightened her burden then I think it was a successful way to spend our day.

Back But Don’t Play

Supporting Kickstarter

wasteland2 This morning I am going to tackle the second talkback topic for the Newbie Blogger Initiative because it is actually one that has been on the hearts and minds of the AggroChat folks for the last few weeks.  For the April AggroChat Game Club game I chose Darkest Dungeon, and since then the topic of playing “unfinished” games has been somewhat of a recent discussion among us in private.  The fact that the game was unfinished caused numerous problems, not the least of which was the simple fact that we were never quite sure if this or that functionality was intended… or just unfinished.  So I feel like I was not able to give it a really solid testing, because I don’t know what might change between now and when the studio deems the game “finished”.  The prompt however for this talkback is pretty straight forward but my answer is going to be a bit more nuanced.

Early Access and Kickstarter – Do you support unfinished games?

So for the first part… yes I wholeheartedly support the backing of unfinished games.  I’ve backed more than I can count at this point through either Kickstarter or company specific initiatives.  I think Kickstarter is a pretty awesome thing, and it has caused a lot of things that I care about to see the light of day.  I’ve backed both software and physical merchandise projects through it, and have been relatively happy with pretty much every project I have ended up chipping in on.  Kickstarter does a lot of things, but the biggest one to me is that it allows me to vote with my dollar on what I think is going to be an idea worth making.  I rarely back very far into a given product tree, and the end result is me usually getting a cut price copy of the game at launch.  While many of these games offer a double platinum early access alpha program…  that is not so much what I am interested at least not any more.

Tired of Alphas

Once upon a time I wanted to be playing every single game I could get my hands on.  I reveled in the fact that I had alpha and beta tested most of the MMOs out there.  For a period of time this was something that was achievable because at any given moment there were a very limited number of Alpha and Beta test programs available.  Somewhere along the line I noticed that playing an Alpha seriously adversely effected my chances of staying with a game for very long after release.  In essence I would burn myself out playing the Alpha, so that when launch happened the game felt very old and tired to me.  The pinnacle of this problem happened for me with Elder Scrolls Online.  I seriously cared about the release of this game, and I took my Alpha testing duties seriously.  I was told at one point that I was in the top 1% of all bug reporters in the game, and every single time we played I spent most of my time reporting and re-reporting issues I saw.

The problem here is that I had been alpha and beta testing builds of this game for a good year before the game actually launched.  So while I only managed to play about three months after the launch of the title, in truth that was around 17 months of me actually playing the game.  Huge chunks of the content I had literally seen hundreds of times, and remembered each of the different incarnations.  The additional problem is I had trouble letting go of the past.  There were some changes made in that game that I considered “for the worse” and myself and many of the other early testers rather vehemently pined for the imagined “good ole days” of early alpha.  Memory is always an incomplete state, and what we remembered was this or that feature that stood out in an ocean of an otherwise broken game.  The final product was so much better than the one we were requesting they return to, but we got hung up on the minutiae of this or that feature that we missed.  Basically I learned that Alpha testing ultimately ruined my enjoyment of the final product… and it only took me twenty some years to wake up to this fact.

Back But Don’t Play

Ultimately I have a very nuanced stance on Kickstarter.  I am more than happy to donate money towards a cause that I believe in like the creation of a brand new Wasteland experience on the PC, or any of the other games I have backed that let me wallow in the nostalgia of my youth.  Generally speaking I now back just far enough into it to give myself a cut rate copy of the game at launch.  Then when I get said copy and any bonus trappings… it seats neatly in my Steam account until I am ready to play it.  I might boot it up periodically to check on its progress, but ultimately I am not going to start the game for real until I see that note from the developer talking about how the game has launched.  The problem is this also means I am phenomenally bad at tracking the progress of games on Kickstarter.  I almost always have a message that needs to be responded to about this or that game but this is what works for me.  It lets me feel like I am backing things that I believe in, but also gives me the piece of mind of not actually starting a game play session until the game is “finished”.

As far as other games that are in a permanent state of development like Minecraft…  once again my feelings are a bit more nuanced.  Paying to play an alpha does not really bother me, if the experience and the enjoyment itself is worth paying to play said alpha.  I got into Minecraft for example during its pre-beta days when you could pick up a copy for well under $10.  I have gotten easily $1000 worth of enjoyment out of that game.  Similarly while I don’t play them nearly as often I have gotten more than enough happiness out of both Trove and Landmark to recuperate any costs I might have put into them.  Ultimately backing an unfinished game, and playing said unfinished game is not an entirely bad idea… so long as you go into it with the thought process that you are playing something that isn’t quite done yet.  Early Access games are in essence paid betas, and if you can live with that… awesome…  if not wait for the release of the game.  I personally have found that the games I played heavily in Alpha and Beta get more enjoyable over time, and going back a year after launch I end up really enjoying myself.  So that is to say that the games I ruined through Alpha testing…  are not in a permanent state of ruined as evidenced by my recent travels into Guild Wars 2, Wildstar, and Star Wars the Old Republic.  Ultimately you have to figure out what works for you, and the amount or risk you are willing to take.  If I feel like I am going to care about a game, I try my best not to burn out before launch.

Botany Mastered

A Very Cardgamey Show

It seems when I think we have nothing to talk about… we end up talking for two hours finally having to force ourselves to stop talking to close out the show.  Last night was one of those night as I was joined by Tam, Kodra, Thalen and Ashgar.  Sometimes a clear theme is presented and last night inadvertedly this happened.  As we rambled through the various things we have been playing, it turns out that a lot of us had been playing card games in one form or another.  We got this interesting peak into the secret underground gaming scene of Seatle that Kodra has now apparently gotten his ticket into.  He recorded this weeks AggroChat on a quick jaunt away from this all day gaming event that was happening in a nearby hotel.  The kind of event that isn’t advertised, and that you apparently have to know someone to get into.  This is not starting to sound like fight club at all is it?

Other than that I shift things around a bit in the show and I actually go first.  Usually by the time we get around to the games I have been playing my co-hosts are bordering on being asleep so I opted to talk about my stuff first.  Which was a large course of Echo of Souls, and beating Wolfenstein The Old Blood which is an absolutely enjoyable but exceptionally short version of the original Wolfenstein game redone in New Order style.  Machinegames has somehow created this magical mix of the glory days of the 90s era shooter mixed with the narrative power of modern gaming.  Ashgar once again is going through his DS collection and playing things that he had not beaten before, this time jaunting down a time travelling avenue.  Thalen extolled the joys of Hand of Fate, and Kodra rediscovered Heroes of Might and Magic 3.  More than that however we talked a lot about card games and board games in general.  Was a fun and chill show to record and hopefully that comes across in the production.

Botany Mastered

ffxiv 2015-05-10 10-28-39-32 Last night while recording the podcast and editing it I spent my time in Final Fantasy XIV working on Botany.  For some time I have been working on pushing up the two critical harvesting abilities Mining and Botany before actually starting the Disciple of the Hand push.  I figured having the ability to go out into the world and gather things would be beneficial when making the push to level all the other things.  The Disciple of the Land classes also gave me a bit of a buffer to psyche myself up for diving headlong into the pit of madness that is crafting.  At this point begins the money grind and thankfully I am up to almost 2 million gil to help support this push.  I guess the first order of business is to level all of the professions to 15 so that I can get the best cross class abilities to help with the rest of the grind.  My original thought was to take everything to 15 in no particular order, and then start walking them up 5 levels at a time.  So take everything to 20, everything to 25 etc.  This also allows me to convert all of the crafting gear along the way hopefully keeping my vaults from overflowing.

Another thing that I really need to start doing is working on my beast tribe daily quests.  One of the things that Ashgar talked about on the podcast was the interesting quest that comes at the end of maxing each of the factions.  There is apparently a storyline that somehow joins up all of the rebellious beast tribe factions into a “Justice League” of sorts.  I would really love to see this storyline before Heavensward launches, but at this point I have right around a month to accomplish all of this.  I am not sure if I have given myself enough time, especially given that I keep dinking around in other games at the same time.  I am starting to feel under the gun with wanting to accomplish so many things before I officially say goodbye to “A Realm Reborn”.  So far FFXIV 2.0 has been an amazing ride and I am amped about what Heavensward and 3.0 has to offer.  I guess tomorrow night the 2.57 patch will be going in, and I am wondering what exactly it will bring as well.  I would be extremely happy if they uncapped Poetics gains… but I somehow doubt that will be the case.

Bad At Shadowrun

Dragonfall 2015-05-09 14-21-57-95 Yesterday I spent a good chunk of time working on Shadowrun Dragonfall and I have decided that I need to just start over.  I spent too much of my time on my main character too focused on a specific tree.  I was planning on going all melee all of the time and quite frankly that is a poor choice to go with.  I spent most of combat running around the room chasing down mobs that would move away from me and attack from ranged.  Additionally I am going to have to throw out some of my instincts because I straight wiped my party trying to stay and fight against unwinnable odds.  All of that said there are aspects of the game I am really enjoying, but right now I am just pretty horrible at actually doing it.  I also need to learn to save far more often because this game will straight kill you at times with a smile.  It is going to be an interesting show when we ultimately talk about this game but I am really wanting to make it further than I did with the previous games.  I would love to beat this one because in many ways the gameplay reminds me of the Fallout series.

The thing is the game gives you one of every classes so I guess what you end up playing is just for flavor.  I will probably go Street Samurai once again because that was always my favorite character to play in the actual Shadowrun campaigns I have been in.  I didn’t really care that much for the little dwarf I rolled so I will probably go something more generic like a human this time around.  All in all I was a fun several hours I spent yesterday, and as it is raining insanely outside… I plan on going downstairs and hanging out on the sofa all day while watching Netflix.  Shadowrun is precisely the perfect kind of game for a day like today.  So I will either be doing that or be working on tradeskills in final fantasy.  In any case I have a gloriously lazy Sunday ahead of me.  These are the types of days that gaming was made for.  This massive lung infection has gotten me out of having to travel for Mother’s Day so right now we are planning on having a re-roll there next weekend when the world is not actively trying to kill us.  Hopefully you have an awesome day too.

Grand Experiment – Year Two

AggroChat 54 – Darkest Dungeon Show

This evening we held the third episode of the AggroChat Game Club where we talk about my pick the early access rogue-like Darkest Dungeon.  I personally chose this game because so many of my friends had been talking about it, and purposefully delayed playing it in the thoughts of this eventually becoming an AggroChat title.  The result is that each of us played the game slightly different, and walked away with a very different perspective and feeling about the game.  Some of us loved it, but even among those that loved it…  we brought with it a completely different outlook and as such a different reaction.  Of course some of us absolutely hated the game, enough to actually Alt-F4 out of the window.

The end result however is what I feel like our most successful game club title to date, because it certainly spurred on some conversation.  Next months title is announced towards the end of the broadcast and I am sure it will be an equally interesting discussion.  As for my own feelings…  I really enjoyed the game, but it seems like I might be the most heartless bastard on the planet when it comes to how I treated my dungeoneers.  Some of my co-hosts developed bonds to their spelunkers and for me… they were just fodder to be thrown at the problem like minions in a Dungeon Keeper game.  Of all the games we have played for the game club so far this is the one that I am most likely to visit and keep playing, but I might be waiting until it exits early access.  There are certain things in the game that I don’t know if they are broken or simply that they have not been finished yet.

Grand Experiment – Year Two

I've Felt Strong Enough to Even Show you Me This Year Two years ago today I set about to change the nature of my blog and embarked upon what I termed the “Grand Experiment” which was more than anything blogging every single day no matter if I had a thought in my mind worth writing down on paper.  Now 730 posts later I continue to question what I was thinking when I started down this road.  The end result has been an interesting ride to say the least.  What has happened more than anything during these last two years is that I have gotten closer with the community of my fellow bloggers.  This has been more important than anything else to me, and it is through all of the various events like the upcoming Newbie Blogger Initiative 2015 that it is happened.  So while I question if I did anything that really mattered over these last  two years, I am thankful for every single reader and peer  that I now have.  There are lots of bloggers that write daily, and they have not made a big deal about it… but for me this was huge.  If you scan back through my blog there are several six month long lapses in content… and very rarely did I actually make it through a month without having a week with zero posts.

It has been so much more than just writing a blog for me personally.  I have allowed myself to open up more about myself and my life than I ever had to date online.  I’ve talked about my personal struggles, and shared with you my excitement and joy.  I’ve let you all into my life, and while I still for the most part am scant on the details…  you are seeing the impression of something very real that is happening.  I figured out early into this process that there would be days when I simply don’t have anything game related to talk about.  There would be days that I would have something on my chest that I needed to get out there, right or wrong… and I am thankful that you all have supported me.  I’ve been told that for many people my blog post is now part of their morning ritual, and if they get to work… and don’t see one they start to worry if something happened to me.  The first day I was late with a post and I had a deluge of people pinging me over twitter and IM to make sure I was okay…  was absolutely overwhelming.

Year Three

Not My Cat - But I Have Decided it is my Spirit Animal :) So tomorrow I begin the third year of this journey.  There are days I question myself why I am doing this… what exactly I am trying to prove.  The thing is I don’t really have an answer for either of those things.  I enjoy this connection that I have to my readers, no matter how ephemeral it might be.  There are days that I am doing this as therapy, other days doing it to share my excitement that I might burst if I don’t get it out onto the page… and in other days…  the days I cannot seem to find the words, I am struggling forward for you.  I feel like we have this contract, that I will write and you will read and together we will have this connection.  I don’t want to be the one to sever that connection.  I don’t want to be the one who lets down my end of this contract.  So I will keep living and experiencing and doing my hack job of sharing that experience with you.  This time next year I have no clue what I might be talking about… but I hope to still be talking and looking forward to our next journey.

Now I ask something of you.  Since we have been sharing these moments each morning for some time…  tell me about what you have done over these two years.  Granted a lot of you have blogs of your own and they are in my RSS reader that I consume at irregular intervals like drinking from a giant firehose of words.  But some of you out there have been with me this entire trip, and have never commented.  I would love to hear from some of you, and let me know how your life has changed over these last two years.  I might not even know you yet, but I would like to.  What major changes has my readership gone through while I have been on this journey.  I’ve upset a few people along the way, some of which have blocked me out of their lives…  but I have gained several orders of magnitude more friends along the journey.  That is the really important thing to me… all of the friends I have to show for my trip, and that I still keep in contact with on a weekly basis.  You are the ones that give me the drive to keep moving forward, and hopefully this next year will be a fun trip shared together.

Loot and Mental Breaks

Rainy Weekend

The problem with three day weekends… is that ultimately you find yourself in need of a fourth day.  While I kept a pretty strict schedule, for whatever reason having three days off in a row tends to shift you out of work mode and into vacation mode.  This morning getting up was absolute hell, and my wife is going through the same thing.  I watched her start to get up only to face plant back on the bed…  a move I likely would have tried had I not needed to get up and turn off the alarm.  In the grand scheme of things I managed to get to bed fairly early last night, or at least early for me.  To make matters worse I am supposed to be in this conference call most of the day…  which for those indoctrinated means fighting desperately to keep from falling asleep and snoring as someone on a speaker phone drones on at length about something.

To make matters worse I am freaking freezing this morning.  Not literally but we are going through one of those periods that we do here in Oklahoma where I am uncertain if we should have on the heater or the air conditioner.  So since it is 55F outside I am upstairs with my zipper hoodie on trying to warm up.  We were supposed to have this lovely Easter weekend, but in truth it was cloudy, windy and rained most of the day.  We went out at one point to visit family in the hospital and it only managed to warm up to around 53F.  The highlight of yesterday however was that getting out and about, and it being relatively lousy out meant that we were able to go to our favorite Desi restaurant and not have any semblance of a line.  Their awesome Desi Rice ended up making both lunch and dinner for me yesterday.  There are times I wish we had a place closer, but I think it would lose some of the specialness of having to make a pilgrimage to go eat there.

Guild Runs

ffxiv 2015-04-05 18-39-25-72 One of the simple pleasures of the weekend came from running lots of content with my guild.  I am amped that folks are getting into their 50s and needing content that will actually pay out in tomestones.  This has been a point of internal conflict for me lately, is that I desperately want/need to cap poetics, but I also want to be there to help people when they need runs.  With the influx of people into our guild I could easily spend every waking moment tanking this or that for one of our free company members.  The problem is for the low level stuff it puts me no closer to my weekly cap goals.  Now that the 130 weapon is within sight, I really really want to get one.  This means that I am going to need to gather up 1300 poetics, which in turn means that I am going to need to cap several weeks in a row to reach that.  So it frustrates me that while I enjoy running stuff for the lowbies, that I am spending time on content that won’t get me any closer to that goal.

Saturday and Sunday however, lots of people needed lots of upper level content which allowed me to feel useful and helpful, but at the same time keep inching towards the goal of hitting 450 poetics for the week.  Over the course of the day we ran experts and hardmodes, each of them slowly incrementing that total so that by the time I slept I was only around 100 poetics away, which seems doable tonight between raiding, the daily expert, and potentially running the new trial.  That honestly is my huge hope for tonight is that we will be able to run the Steps of Faith trial really quickly, because I have tried with two random groups only to have half of the group bail on me after a single failure.  That trial is also gumming up the works right now of the trial roulette because the moment people random into it, they are abandoning party and taking the penalty.  The result is that people seem to just be avoiding the trial queue, because we ran a few this weekend and they took forever to form.

Loot and Mental Breaks

darkest 2015-04-05 11-44-12-28 I’ve spent what feels like a silly amount of time playing Darkest Dungeon this weekend, and I have to say I am still loving it.  Essentially I have been playing through at least one adventure per day, which seems to be about the right amount for me in one sitting.  After that I log into whatever game I am going to be playing for the night.  At this point I have lost one entire party, a couple of singles and pushed three characters to the point of having a mental break.  That said I am having a blast doing it and I finally defeated the Apprentice Necromancer, the first real objective in the game.  Right now my ideal party would include a Bounty Hunter, a Highwayman, a Jester and an Occultist.  No particular reason other than the group comp seems to work really well for me.  As far as healers go I really really like the Occultist, because I guess I am really good at winning the roll that keeps him from bleeding my characters.  I have seen as much as 16 points of health healed on a single turn by an occultist, whereas the plague doctor seems to only be able to dink heal single points.

The bounty hunter right now is my absolute favorite hero, but that might just be because he looks pretty much like every character I tend to play in games.  I love the whole grappling hook thing, and the ability to use it as either a ranged weapon or to pull targets within his melee range.  Highwayman just seems really strong with his range abilities, and if the target can bleed he has a nice attack there as well.  Jester is really brutal, with two attacks that deal a lot of bleed damage.  The biggest problem I have with them is that one of their best attacks is this jump dirk ability that also places them in the first slot in your party, potentially pushing the bounty hunter out of melee.  So I try really hard not to actually use that ability unless I think I can finish someone off with it, because the person in the first party position tends to soak some of the worst attacks.  So far I am going into dungeons with lots of food, bandages and torches and doing remarkably well.  I am sure as I go further the game is going to get more punitive.

Darkest Dungeon

Twitch and Hitbox

Yesterday was a bit of a strange day in that I recorded two different podcasts that were not AggroChat on the same day.  Early in the day I recorded another episode of Bel Folks Stuff, that was completely on the spur of the moment since I was off for Good Friday.  Right now I am tenantively planning on releasing this on Wednesday.  Then in the evening I guested on an episode of the Multiplaying podcast.  While talking on that podcast or actually I think during the “after party” we were talking about Twitch and Hitbox.  During yesterday morning I did my first real test of using JoiCaster to stream to both Hitbox and Twitch at the same time.  Other than some technical difficulties it largely worked and I was able to produce a video of myself playing Darkest Dungeon.

The problem is that I had like five times the number of people watching the twitch stream as I did the hitbox stream at the same time.  So much so that I stopped watching the chat on Hitbox and wound up missing a few comments.  Last night I realized something, that my love of Hitbox is somewhat clouding my judgment.  Me trying to make that happen is kind of like trying to make MySpace happen because you happened to like this or that feature better than Facebook.  At this point Twitch is ubiquitous, everyone has an account and it is widely supported by lots of third party sites.  There are several things about Hitbox that just feel better, but there just aren’t the number of people there that there are on Twitch.  In theory I think I am going to abandon this whole multi-streaming thing and just stick with Twitch from this point on.  It pains me to say it, but Hitbox as cool as it might be… is just too late to the party.

Darkest Dungeon

darkest 2015-04-04 09-27-22-60

As we announced last week during the AggroChat episode, this month I chose Darkest Dungeon as my round robin pick for the game club.  This is one of those games that I have seen circulating in among my friends but I largely avoided it, so that I could go into it fresh as a game club pick.  Yesterday I played it for the first time, in the block above you can see the result of my stream.  I have to say even though the game is pretty unforgiving… I am really enjoying the hell out of it.  At its core it is a rogue like RPG dungeon crawler, with a really awesome woodcut art style… and an interesting sanity mechanic.  So in part it feels a bit like playing Call of Cthulhu.  Everything seems to have a chance of effecting your sanity, and when your characters get too stressed a saving throw is triggered.  If they succeed this internal roll they gain a positive trait, and if they fail it… they gain a negative trait.

darkest 2015-04-04 09-20-40-67 The cool thing is… these are not just passive debuffs but they actively change the way the character starts interacting.  For example in the above play session my Vestal gained the “greedy” negative trait… which oddly enough made her far more blood thirsty in combat.  There were a number of times where she just attacked without my say.  This morning when playing the game a bit one of my highwaymen got the fearful trait causing him to periodically retreat to the back of the pack, changing what abilities you could actually use to attack with.  The only real negative so far is that “the only way out is through” meaning once you start a mission it seems like the only way to leave the mission is to either finish it successfully… or kill off your party.  The positive there is that party members are roughly as disposable as they are in Rogue Legacy.  There are always fresh recruits available through the wagon in camp.  At this point I have lost one entire party… and a few single characters here and there and it feels like I am still making forward momentum.  I feel like this game is going to generate some interesting conversation at the end of the month.

Alligator Pears

ffxiv 2015-04-04 10-05-39-77 Yesterday was a very strange day for me, largely because I was trying not to get too terribly involved in anything.  With the two podcasts, and not really knowing the scheduling of the second one I stayed out of the mix for most things.  This means that the vast majority of my time online was spent working on Botany.  At this point I have managed to take it to level 35 which is the beginning of the more grindy levels.  Thankfully I have for the most part a full allotment of leve quests to get me through them.   Working on harvesting has become my “during podcasts” activity, because it is slow paced and proding and does not require much attention.  So while recording both Bel Folks Stuff and Multiplaying I slowly worked my way through harvesting a ton of stuff…  namely Alligator pears.  I am not sure exactly what they are… but I certainly did manage to gather a dozen stacks of them.  In truth I kind of expect they would look a bit like an avocado in real life.

Now I need to figure out what item I need for my level 40 Botany quest and start collecting that.  So far that has been how I have leveled, I focus fire whatever item I need for the next quest and then when I collect enough of those I start doing Levequests.  Botany seems so much more peaceful than mining was, and I guess it is in part because it almost exclusively takes place in the games extremely beautiful forest areas.  There is just something relaxing about walking around, listening to the music and chopping down trees.  Today however I really need to spend some time working on getting actual content in that can earn me poetics.  I did take a break from the harvesting for awhile yesterday to run some new folks through Tam-Tara Deepcroft.  Tanking low level content is always enjoyable, and it gives me a chance to break out my sword and board and paladin it up.  The constant trickle of new players still manages to floor me, but everyone seems happy and well adjusted which makes me happy in turn.

#FFXIV #DarkestDungeon #Twitch

The Patreon Thing

AggroChat 50 – Game Club 2 – Trine 2

trine2_32bit 2015-03-27 23-40-16-99 Last night we recorded our 50th episode of AggroChat and I have to say that is a bit staggering now that I think about it.  We’ve almost recorded a full year of AggroChat, and we only “missed” a single week.  In fact now that I think about it two weeks from now will actually be our one year anniversary show.  It is insane how an entire year of recording gets away from you like that.  Things are going to be a bit strange over the next few weeks as Kodra has accepted a new job and is moving out to Seattle to join Tam and some of our other friends there.  Everyone is joking that they are trying to recruit everyone to Seattle, but honestly  the cost of living difference would be horrible coming from Tulsa.  Besides according to the New York Times we are apparently this up and coming hipster hub.  It is shocking the number of smaller game conventions that are happening in this area.

In any case this week we talked about Trine 2, an exceptionally beautiful game about a Gluttonous Warrior, a Grumpy Wizard and a Larcenous Rogue.  Honestly this is one of the shortest shows we have recorded in a long while because there just wasn’t a whole lot to talk about  in regards to Trine.  We came down on multiple sides of the game with some of us enjoying it, others not feeling much of anything about it, and still others disliking it immensely.  From that aspect I feel like the first round robin title was a success.  From the aspect of giving us a lot of material to talk about, maybe not quite so much.  We also announced our third game club title, which would be one of my picks:  Darkest Dungeon.  Since that is a game about dungeons… and mental illness I have a feeling like it is going to create a lot of stories as a result.

The Paetron Thing

Yesterday I wrote a strange piece, and among many things that folks got out of it, at least one person thought I was talking at least in some part about the current Patreon trend.  I honestly didn’t mean it to come across like that, but it is proof that we can all read the same post but take vastly different messages from it.  Patreon and I have this odd relationship, where I think it is both really awesome… and worrisome at the same time.  The awesome part is it gives people who are creating a lot of really awesome content a way to actually do that as a living, providing them a semi-regular source of income from the creation of “stuff”.  The troublesome aspect is that I seem to see people who are NOT creating much content, throwing up Patreons left and right because it seems to be the latest way to get something for nothing.  Internet celebrity is apparently now a thing worth funding?  In the case of full disclosure I back a couple of different Patreons because the people involved are creating a regular stream of content that I value, so I don’t want it to sound like I am against the concept.

Where I end up wrestling with myself is that there are times I think “man it would be nice to have my costs offset”.  Within a few seconds a little voice inside me pipes up and says that if I did advertising or a patreon or any other way of offsetting my expenses that it would somehow “cheapen” the process.  I’ve always considered my blog a labor of love, and this whole getting up every morning to write something new is something I do… because I enjoy it, not because I am trying to profit from it.  All of that said there are some very real and concrete expenses to keep it all up, and if I did not have a good paying job I would have to stop doing pretty much everything that I do.  I added up some details this morning and for hosting and domain registration alone I am paying the equivalent of a little more than $60 a month once you factor in everything.  Then you tack onto that another $150 a month for really fast internet, and various game subscriptions and you quickly get into some real money.  So while part of me thinks that I should be creating a Patreon as a sort of Tip Jar, there is another part of me that says “don’t”.

Limited Funding

Patreon is an amazing thing for those who are creating the content and actually needing the money to keep the process going.  The problem is…  I don’t need the money in the strictest sense.  My fear is that as people start popping these accounts up for the fun of it, that they will dilute the money away from the people that actually need it.  The blogging and the podcasting and the occasional streaming… are all part of my larger hobby of “gaming” and I just view all of these costs as being part of that bigger habit.  If I were to lose my job or something drastic like that, I would actually have a real need for it.  I feel like setting up a Patreon now would be akin to “crying wolf”, and asking for the goodwill of my readers and listeners before I in the strictest since needed to.  Maybe I am odd in my point of view, in that I view this relationship between reader and writer as some sort of a social contract.  I provide for you, and you give me a reason to keep making content.  But like all relationships I feel like there is always the problem that one side might end up taking advantage of the other.

Setting up a Patreon page, because it is seems to be the popular thing to do…  feels like  taking advantage of that relationship.  Because honestly I know there will be people out there who do donate because they want me to feel loved and appreciated.  I have an exceptionally warm group of readers and listeners.  I appreciate every single one of you out there, and that is a big part of the reason why I have turned down every single person wanting to place advertisements on my blog.  I don’t want to cheapen that relationship, and I don’t want to tarnish our friendship.  That is not to say that at some point the expenses of my sites will grow to a point where I simply cannot weather the entire burden myself.  But that time is not now.  Until it reaches that point then I will continue avoiding trying to “monetize” what I do for my own personal enjoyment.    I will continue also suggesting people show support for the Patreons that DO need the funding, and are providing a wealth of content as a result.