Dangerous Water

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I am pretty sure I am coming down with something because I have felt fairly lousy since the weekend.  It is the sort of indiscriminate miserable that just makes doing anything a complete trudge.  It also feels like I have spent more time searching for something to play than actually playing anything.  Then things happen like the fact that for some reason I booted up Bioshock Remastered?  I got the game free for owning all of the other Bioshock content, and I installed it some time ago thinking it might be nice to play back through this game.  Then the election happened…  and the character of Andrew Ryan felt a little too on the nose for me personally.  So as a result it has sat unloved as a desktop icon…  waiting on someone to give it the time of day and click on it.  For whatever reason last night I did just that…  and apparently the game defaults to running at 4k.  Did you know that 4k PNG screenshots are almost 15 mb a piece?  I didn’t but now do…  I have lots of them that I will ultimately need to drop down if I ever hope to use them.  Something else that I did not know is that if you have a USB Controller connected to your system…  the game doesn’t seem to be willing to give you a mouse and keyboard option.  So as a result I played through on the Xbox 360 controller I leave hooked up to my gaming machine.  I didn’t get super far before the whim changed, but enough to remember how much I really love this game.  I do find it extremely odd that you can’t really sight any of the weapons though….  that is not something I remembered but I guess it makes sense given that your alternate fire is whatever plasmid you happen to have equipped.  Personally I still think the game looks gorgeous, and artistically it has some of the most memorable visual sequences and staging.

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When I bounced I ultimately did so in the direction of Mass Effect Andromeda, and opted to finish up Hvarl.  The weird part about this is that I thought I had not actually really scratched the surface of this planet.  However it seems like in the grand scheme of things is is maybe half the length of Voeld.  The weird part about this is it seems like the last thing that I waited to do was actually go vault hunting.  I am not exactly sure if you can do this early however since  the actual access to the vault and the second half of the map only work if you happen to be on specific quests.  So far this seems like the most “on rails” planet given that things need to happen in a specific sequence to end up leading to the end of it.  The planet itself reminds me an awful lot of Dromund Kaas from SWTOR, with a much more wild jungle area.  In the grand scheme I did not like this planet nearly as much as I did Voeld…  and also it doesn’t feel nearly as satisfying to move on past it either.  I think the biggest part of this for me is the complete and total lack of Nomad action, which makes sense given how dense the foliage is.  That said I did not really realize how much of my enjoyment planet side is related to driving my Nomad around until I hit this planet.  We talked about it on twitter yesterday… but want to buy a Nomad racing DLC for this game.

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Towards the end of the night I moved forward in the story and started the world of Kadara, which happens to be populated by a bunch of the Exiles off the Nexus.  Functionally you can think of it as Omega by any other name…  except instead of a slew of interesting Aliens…  you have a bunch of asshole humans instead.  After Desert World, Ice World and Night World…  I was happy to move on to something that looked relatively normal.  You know other than the whole acid water thing going on…  and toxic regions that damage your suit similar to the last few worlds we have been on.  Something tells me that I am ultimately going to work on terraforming the shit out of this world first thing so that I can enjoy the ride more freely.  I’ve barely just scratched the surface but I gotta say… fighting Nexus outlaws is way more enjoyable than any of the enemy types I have encountered to date in this game.  I mean I love the Remnant and it is always fun to kill Kett, but the outlaws here feel much more varied.  Especially when you factor in that apparently there is a turf war going on, and the two factions are gunning for each other as well as you.  I am sort of longing for a “kill everyone and settle the planet” option but I am not likely going to see that.

 

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.

 

Be The Battery

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Yesterdays post was a little more bleak than they usually are, and the bizarro thing is…  I think writing it helped a lot.  It helped putting the frustrations and dread into a single post and sending it out into the world.  Its almost as if typing the words lessened the hold the malaise had on me.  Then again the activities of last night helped quite a bit as well.  However I will get to that shortly.  First off I want to show off my home in Elder Scrolls Online.  I went back and forth on a few different homes before finally settling on Mournoth Keep in the Halcyon Lake area of Bangkorai.  I remember being extremely fond of the main campaign in Bangkorai so that fit for me as well as the fact that since I chose Daggerfall Covenant as my original faction… I wanted something to call home in the same area.  In truth I have not done much with it since getting it, largely because I have not had much luck in getting pattern or furniture drops.  I am being told that looting furniture seems to be the best way to do that.  In theory I could resort to stealing, or instead just fine one of the many towns controlled by enemies and run amok looting there.  I have a feeling through with the focus on housing there is going to be a lot of competition for lootables.

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Now on to the events of last night and how they seem to have turned around my spirit.  For awhile now Squirrel, Jex and myself have had an informal Thursday night thing where we go off and do small group content in Destiny together.  Originally this was the night when we took on the Challenge of Elders, but more recently we have been running all three of our characters through the weekly nightfall.  I have yet to get an icebreaker, so I largely think they are humoring me until I actually get one.  Whatever the case it is a lot of fun, but due to the bizarre schedule since coming back from PAX it had been a few weeks since we last did one of these nights.  In truth I had not actually played Destiny since probably January 19th now that I am thinking about it.  I was extremely rusty, and by the sheer number of times that they had to rez me it showed… but regardless I think we all had a lot of fun.  This week the Nightfall is Dust Palace which is something that has been in the rotation since year one… and that everyone has memorized at this point.  As a result we were able to run through three characters worth of Nightfalls in way less than an hours time.  During the Nightfall runs they asked me where I was on progress on the quest line to unlock the Outbreak Prime weapon, which requires you to group together in a fire team with a Titan, Warlock and Hunter to make forward momentum.

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The truth is I had not really made it terribly far other than picking up the occasional progress from our Thursday night runs when the stars happened to be aligned and we wound up choosing to play different classes on a given run.  Like they often do… they set out to change that and we ran a sequence of Archon’s Forge to finish out the step I happened to be on since those apparently count as “public events”.  It was around this point that we realized that we did not have three characters with the devices needed to do the decoding step of the quest chain.  There is a phase that needs to be completed in a social area where a titan, warlock and hunter input a sequence on this item that drops from the quest chain.  If all three sequences are correct you can click through and get to the next step.  After a little shuffling we realized that Jex’s warlock had already completed the quest, and Squirrel’s hunter was on the step I had just completed.  So we continued on to catch Squirrel up in the process and ran a sequence of three heroic strikes, and then three public events to get us all on the same stage of the quest.  After that back to the social area to complete the matrix and move on to the next step.

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It felt like the night was still relatively young, so instead of hanging it up for the evening we pushed on into the next quest which involved collecting a bunch of SIVA tech by killing splicers.  This also required us to run the Sepiks Perfected strike, which we knocked out in short order by simply doing the 320 light version.  From there it was back into Archon’s Forge to complete three events, and farm up the rest of our SIVA Tech fragments.  All of which went extremely quickly and before we had finished the three events, we had gotten 100% of our fragments.  Watching those things scroll by 2 at a time on the right side of the screen was madness as we tore apart the forge event.  Finally it was another trip back to a social space, this time to solve a four by five matrix.  It took a half dozen attempts but we finally got the right numbers on all three of us, allowing us to move to the final step.  Now both Squirrel on his hunter and myself on my Titan are on the step that requires us to simply kill any three bosses in the Wrath of the Machine raid.  Then I will have my very own Outbreak Prime pulse rifle, and can do silly damage to SIVA targets with my nanites.  All it all it was exactly the sort of concentrated fun that I needed to pull me out of my funk, and even though I am staring down the barrel of what will almost certainly be an extremely stressful day…  I suddenly found a new packet of spoons with which to confront it.

Wildlands

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It’s Monday morning and I am still struggling from whatever the hell I picked up at Pax South.  For a period of time last week I thought I had started to kick it… so I backed off the over the counter meds and apparently that was a massive fail.  For most of last week I was working on pure adrenaline as we careened headlong towards a super important demo that we had at work for Thursday afternoon.  After that happened… I largely started falling back apart and now even though I tried my best over the weekend to get back on the meds I am still struggling.  I am hoping that today at some point things start to chill out because we have an even more important demo this afternoon.  We are in crazy crunch mode with a big release looming on the all too near horizon, so I know that once I get back in the swing of things I won’t have time to fall apart any further.  So hopefully I can survive once again on adrenaline and caffeine to get me over that finish line when I can well and truly have time to fall apart and be sick.

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Ghost Recon Wildlands was one of those games that I had only been tangentially following.  I remember watching the video when it was announced and thinking that it looked pretty cool.  However I generally don’t really go in for “military fantasy” style games like Call of Duty, where I am an operator in a tangential reality to our own.  Ultimately this is the big reason why Destiny has continued to click for me… but Division fizzled out is because killing monsters will always feel better than killing people.  I knew there was a beta going on this weekend because another friend had been offering invites, which I largely turned down because I thought to myself “I have too many games to play”.  However next thing I know my friend Dallian emails me an invite to the beta on the PC so since I already had the key I figured that I might as well check it out.  I am largely over my frustrations with UPlay because I guess while playing The Division I learned to accept it.  I mean it is still a better interface than Origin…  so that is at least something.  Over the weekend I tried playing the game on both my i7 x99 980 gtx based gaming desktop and my i7 960m based gaming laptop.  In both cases the game performed fairly well…  with the laptop getting 30 fps on medium settings and the desktop getting a predictable 60 fps on high settings.  I will be trying to remember to caption the source of each screenshot, since I took some from both.

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As far as the game itself…  well to be truthful it plays a lot like most of these games do.  Once you take the setting into account and the fact that you are playing a third person game instead of a first person game…  I found it largely indistinguishable from Farcry.  You roam the world, taking on baddies while collecting resources for your faction of choice… so that you can then unlock upgrades.  The primary difference being that there seemed to be far less story… and way more open world sandbox than a Farcry game.  You are encouraged to go interrogate people.. but largely that just makes new blips show up on your map of where to find resources.  What I went into the game hoping I would find…  is The Division but in a single player fighting the drug cartels skin.  There are moments where it absolutely feels that way, especially considering that an awful lot of the sound effects when you secure something come straight from the sound effects we are used to hearing in Division.  Where the game excels however is in the use of the drone mechanic, that which it largely feels like a flying camera…  gives you a nice tactical advantage going into fights.  If you are fast and good at spotting targets you can mark all of the hostiles in an area ahead of a fight and take them one one by one in a semi-stealth manner.  I spent a lot of time sniping with my suppressed SMG, because ironically that allowed me to kill things without anyone noticing…  whereas my sniper rifle drew instant attention.

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The other odd thing about the game is the fact that for me personally… my squad existed for one purpose… to rez me when I got a little over zealous.  There was never a fight that I went into where I felt like they were an actual benefit and made the encounter easier.  They largely served as decoys to draw fire away from my position.  What I did find myself missing however is the cover mechanic from The Division.  There were so many places where I really needed to hug a wall and duck around a corner to get the shot… and I found that completely lacking.  Maybe I simply did not find the correct keybinds to hold to cover… but whatever the case it was something I was expecting to wound up missing.  The other complaint I had about the game is that it definitely feels like a console first/pc afterthought experience.  Now moment to moment gameplay and firefights are awesome on the PC, and I found it nice and easy to whittle my way through incoming hostiles.  Where it falls down however is that none of the vehicles felt like you could reasonably control them with a mouse and keyboard.  While driving something as simple as a jeep I found myself wildly veering from ditch to ditch as I tried desperately to wild around mountainside roads.  It is in fact another game about driving crappy vehicles on even crappier roads… and the shockingly even crappier keyboard and mouse controls make this an extremely frustrating experience.

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I am largely placing this game in the “it might be fun” bucket, but it is definitely not a preorder sort of situation for me.  The demo however really wants you to preorder, in fact it is constantly prompting you to do so.  The truth is like most open world games… you spend an awful lot of time wandering through fields full of absolutely nothing.  There are vast open spaces of nothing of any consequence that lay between the small bins of things that might be useful.  When you start running missions, rather than roaming aimlessly like I do… you spend an awful lot of time retracing areas that you have already been to as you operate out of specific hub locations.  Where the game excels however is in town-centric firefights, with the ability to duck inside of buildings and avoid guards… then pick them off at the most opportune time.  There is a larger village that you encounter pretty early that is really fun, especially if you allow the Blancos to call in reinforcements.  All of that said though, the game still doesn’t really feel like it gives me something unique that makes me extremely interested in its own brand of special ops fairy tale.  Especially when Horizon Zero Dawn is right around the corner… and will be a much more interesting world to explore.  Video games are largely about escapism for me…  and the Call of Duty style game just doesn’t feel escapist enough for me to ever really get hooked.

Flawless Royal Warlock

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Last night I had every intent of attempting to get a Nightfall going.  As a result when I first got home from work I grabbed some food and popped upstairs to fiddle about on my warlock.  It is odd how my order of enjoyment has shifted when it comes to my alts.  Nothing is ever going to dislodge Titan as my primary class in Destiny, but the other two appear to be in a state of flux.  Originally speaking my secondary character was always my Hunter, and my Warlock generally sat in this realm of just one or two steps removed from “afterthought”.  However with Rise of Iron and even some of the late Taken King content…  that sort of shifted around and I tend to enjoy my time spent on the Warlock far more than the Hunter.  I think part of it is that the movement options for the Hunter seem awesome at face value…  but double jump just feels more limited than either the Titan or Warlock jumps.  Admittedly I have constant issues with the Warlock jump because it essentially works backwards of that of the Titan.  However in both cases it feels like I can get where I am needing to go more easily than trying to time a bunch of jumps in order to get up to anyplace high.  On the Hunter I feel like there is never a situation where I do not want to be using the Bones of Eao…  so much so that I question if it would not simply be better for the class if that Exotic were phased out and that function just defaulted.  I still wish there were artifacts that allowed you to switch which jump your class had… because in truth I would still give everyone the Titan jump if given the chance.

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Now I said I had every intent of running a Nightfall last night, but instead when my wife managed to make it home I popped back downstairs to fix her some dinner.  After doing so however instead of filtering back up to my office, I decided to chill downstairs on the sofa with her…  which mean’t no PS4.  I realize I am one of the only people on the planet for which “sofa gaming” does not mean a console, but I have all of my consoles hooked up next to my gaming PC in my office so I can capture from them easily… and also that is where the Television that I can dominate lives.  Before long I was on the laptop and playing some more Diablo, and eventually connected with some friends chain running Rifts for fun and profit.  All in all it was a really good night for me and progression, because firstly… managed to get all of my gems to “Flawless Royal” level.  Additionally I managed to knock out a few more items from my set build namely that I now have the right armor and “weapon” in my cube.  I am now down to a place where the only things I am missing are my jewelry…  but these are also some of the more expensive items to buy from Kadala.  There is a more powerful Legacy of Nightmares build that I am working towards, largely because I have never actually tried doing a build using that pair of rings.  The game apparently wants me to try it however since I wound up with an Ancient version of one of the rings last night.  However I am in the very awkward place of needing Justice Lantern, both pieces of the Endless Walk jewelry set, and the ever present Convention of Elements in the cube.  On a positive note last night I managed to pick up a pair of Nemesis Bracers which I can swap with my Heart of Iron in the cube to make farming runs go more smoothly.  Additionally I managed to get all three of my primary build gems over level 25 so they finally start doing interesting things.  All of these things combined seem to now allow me to pretty easily farm Torment X content, which means that 7/10 of the next Seasonal step is knocked out…  with the only truly heinous thing left being mastering the set dungeon.  For that I am largely going to need to tweak my build because I don’t actually use consecrate anymore, although it is definitely worth trying given how bed of nails works with it.

Tonight however… will most definitely be a night for Destiny because in theory it should be easier to get two characters through Nightmares on reset day 🙂

Exotic Towels

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This morning is a truly bizarre morning because we went to sleep not even thinking about snow…  and then it apparently happened over night.  I live in a town on the northern border of Tulsa, and I say apparently because there is zero snow on the ground here.  However there was enough in Tulsa proper and the southern communities for the public school system, including the town my wife teaches in to call a snow day.  She is super pumped because it means she has a day to try and play catch up, and me…  I have a weird commute ahead of me because I know at some point on my drive in things will go from peaceful and snow free…  to a winter wasteland.  I promise I did not intend to write three days in a row about Destiny, however that is ultimately what is happening.  Since the launch of the dawning I have not touched any of the supposedly lucrative bounties from Commander Zavala, which are in theory the only way you can currently get the Icebreaker.  Now before I took a break Squirrel, Jex and I had this tradition of running through some content on Thursday nights given that it was a big empty space in our calendars.  Originally the tradition was to run as many characters through the Challenge of Elders as we could in an evening, but last night we rebooted it for the purpose of running a Nightfall.

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From there we chain ran six heroic strikes in a row, because we were already considering doing it…  and I have been sitting on the Champion of the Cult quest for ages.  This is a quest you get when you reach level 25 with any of the given factions, and it rewards an exotic version of your class item.  For Titans this ends up being a rather ornate looking towel…  and I still question the good folks at Bungie for thinking that a flag football towel was a great idea for a glass item especially when Hunters get amazing and iconic looking cloaks.  In order to finish the quest you have to do content while decked out in your factions gear… wearing a shader, emblem and class item for that faction.  The quest ultimately requires you to do the following…

  • Slay 500 Minions of the Darkness
  • Complete 10 Heroic Strikes
  • Slay 250 Crucible Foes
  • Win 10 Crucible Matches

Now this used to be considerably easier because folks were constantly chain running heroic strikes.  However with the changes to the system that essentially make them mini nightfalls…  folks are just not running them as often which meant that if I was ever going to get through this step I was probably going to need a group of friends to do it with.  However since I had already done the more annoying part which involved Crucible wins and kills… there was zero chance that I was going to actually abandon the quest.  So for months it has been sitting in my progress tracker taunting me, until my good friends Jex and Squirrel helped me knock it out by chain running six heroics in a row.

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Now earlier I mentioned that the weekly bounty from Commander Zavala was supposedly the only way to get an Icebreaker currently.  Unfortunately however this week was not my week, and instead of getting an exotic I wound up with a relatively decent version of the Shadow Price legendary auto rifle.  Now I had been sitting on one of these in the bank that I was using on my warlock, and it falls into the medium rate of fire/medium category.  The biggest problem with this archetype is the fact that it generally has a low magazine size… for example this weapon has one of only 25 which is really too small for most Auto Rifle friendly activities.  This roll however is good enough that it bears further notice since in the first slot I have Range Finder which greatly boosts the range while aiming down the sight…  something I am never not going to do.  In the second column I can choose between Perfect Balance or Hand-laid Stock to give it extra stability…. and after playing around last night I think I prefer Perfect Balance.  Finally in the last column I have Third Eye, which is a way for me to break my dependence on my crutch…  the Memory of Gheleon and equip my far better itemized artifact from Year 2 Kings Fall raid.  Once you get used to having tracking all the time while aiming your primary… it is really really hard to go back to NOT having it.  I still do not think this is going to come close to replacing my beloved Range Finder/Perfect Balance/Counterbalance Year 2 Haakon’s Hatchet… but it will make a decent primary to swap over to my Warlock and Hunter alts.  The real take away of the evening however is that I had a blast… and I am hoping we can get back in the habit of doing the Thursday night shenanigans.

Finding the Forge

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bel-colorsFirst off I have to start this mornings post by talking about the surprise I got last night.  For awhile now I have had my friend AmmosArt working on a series of avatars to use for anything AggroChat related.  When I do the title cards it always somewhat bugs me that we don’t have a set of Avatars drawn by the same person, because I think that would end up looking a lot nicer.  As a result I commissioned her to create a set for the main cast, and we kicked it off with mine…  however I think she has a few of them waiting in the pipes as well.  Since I have “Fantasy Bel” thanks to the project that Tam started, and now “Realistic Bel” thanks to the prize commission from Faebelina I thought it would be kinda cool to have a “Sci-Fi Bel”.  So when she asked me what I wanted drawn for my AggroChat avatar I sent her this overly complex idea for me wearing a bunch of named armor pieces from Destiny.  Here she has expertly rendered that idea with me, a giant flaming Iron Lord axe, my Sunbreaker hammer and Nolandroid.  I could not be happier, and while she was concerned about how the fire effects would feel… I think they work amazingly well.  Thanks once again Ammo for taking mad ramblings and converting them into a picture format.  You should also check out some of her other works on her website or on her daily art tumblr.

I have to say… it is truly bizarre getting back to the task of blogging in the morning.  It is 6:23 and I have consumed my first cup of coffee and am trying to get on about the business of blogging like I know what the hell I am doing.  Today is a day I have been dreading because it means that I have to give up the comfort of my sofa blanket cocoon and venture forth into the cruel and now very chilly world.  Of note… I have been off work since Friday December 23rd.  So I have had two blissful weeks that have allowed me to get completely out of the habit of functioning on any sort of a schedule.  Those weeks have been shockingly busy with only a couple days where I could truly hang out dawn til dusk in my flannel pajama pants and pretend the world didn’t exist.  During that time we dealt with a handful of crisis that involved changing out a leaking faucet in our bathroom… and then ironically rushing some big air mover fans to my mother in law who had a major leak in her front bathroom.  In between that there were numerous Christmas celebrations, and an attempt to properly recognize my father’s birthday…  which also coincides with New Years day.  I have not even really gotten around to making some proper resolutions, and while I don’t really buy into them much, the New Year is a decent time to start new things.  At the moment however my mind has turned towards preparing for Pax South which is coming up in a few weeks.

The Forge Trick

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Yesterday I posted a mammoth Destiny guide of sorts that I had been meaning to create.  I have a number of friends in various stages of getting sucked into the game… and when I try and give them advice it often comes off as mad ramblings filled with a bunch of topics that they don’t quite understand yet.  The guide was my attempt at writing something for someone just getting started but also still focused on pushing through the light levels as quickly as possible.  As I said yesterday…  I failed to do 99% of the things mentioned in the guide but I am following a similar thought process on my Xbox One account since it is largely starting from zero.  One of the things I mentioned doing was Archon’s Forge… and you might of thought to yourself “But Bel, that is a Group Activity… how did you solo it?”.  Some time ago my friend Shadoes gave me some tips on how to reliably make Archon’s Forge spawn with a group in progress.  Firstly you have to understand how patrol zones in Destiny work in order to make this happen.  Each named area is essentially a match made zone that the game tries to pair you with other players also in that area.  However you usually zone in and out too fast for the game to effectively do this, so there are things you can do to force the game to match you up with other players.  Inside of the Archon’s Forge there is a path behind the forge that leads down to an area that a number of missions and patrols send you to, but is effectively open at all times.  You can see this path as the opening with the ride SIVA cables coming out of it in the above image.

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What I find works is to run down this tunnel to the next area, you will be able to tell you have transitioned by a title card coming up identifying that you have entered “The Warrens”.  From here I tend to kill the various splicer mobs that spawn in… which may include a handful of 2-4 Vandals, 2-4 Stealth Vandals, 2-4 Dregs… and potentially a Captain.  The mix varies slightly, but essentially I spend enough time in this area to clear out whatever happens to have spawned.  From there I slowly walk back up towards the Archon’s Forge, and for me personally it helps for me to crouch while walking just to force myself to slow down.  In Destiny I am so used to constantly sprinting that I find myself doing it without realizing it.  Essentially you are trying to give the game plenty of time for it to notice that you are entering an area with an event… and that it should match you up with additional people.

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If it works, you should hear the familiar Fallen Klaxon as you near the tunnel leading out of the area and into Archon’s Forge.  If you make it to the Forge without getting matched into an open world group…  then simply head back down to the Warrens and start the process over.  I would say 99% of the time by the moment I reach the top I hear the Klaxon and am up and running with a viable open world team doing Archon’s Forge.  The longest so far it has ever taken to get matched is three trips up and down the tunnel but your mileage may vary depending on the time of day you are trying and your platform.  I’ve not tried this on Xbox Live, but considering the person who tipped me off to this method plays there I am going to assume it works fine as well.  Basically doing this method is going to allow you to hop into the Plaguelands and farm the forge until your heart is content, just remember to keep going to orbit every so often to make sure you are not losing loot.  Your mailbox can only hold 20 items… and while it takes longer for your inventory to fill up now that greens turn immediately into materials…  it still happens frighteningly fast while doing the Forge.

Bel’s Fake Game Awards

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This break has been a bit of an odd one…  namely because I have completely screwed up a few times and failed to blog.  Even worse… I forgot I forgot to blog.  It is as though I have been in a bit of a weird time warp where I lived a bit separate from the rest of the world for awhile.  So instead of being connected like I usually am…  everything has just sort of flown over the top of me without ever really sinking in.  I have not been logging into MMOs hardly at all… and when I did it was for a specific focused purpose rather than just hanging out there.  The break has been about falling into a number of game shaped holes…  including Destiny, Minecraft, Bloodborne, and most recently Tyranny.  However today represents the beginning of me trying to get into the swing of things.  I technically have two full days left…  well not full given that its 9 am when I am finally getting around to writing this morning.  However it is time for me to do my sham of an attempt at an Awards Show…  that I started last year, where the categories really don’t exist and no one actually wins.

Something Is Missing

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Pokemon Go

Recently in the name of better health and that whole tradition of trying to start the New Year off right…  my wife and I have been spending a lot more time walking.  One of the things I greatly miss that was a huge part of my life during 2016… is Pokemon Go.  One of the updates essentially screwed me over and locked me out at least semi-permanently from playing the game.  The Google Safety check… seems to think my phone is rooted even though it is not.  My only work around is to actually root my phone and install one of the many applications that will hide root from Pokemon Go…  defeating the entire purpose of their safety check.  However I am reaching a point where I really want to play the game… and I might just resort to this.  Essentially this game was a good chunk of my year… or at least I was obsessive about it for two months.  Pokemon Go did something that no game really has…  made me care about mobile as a gaming platform and as a result it should get a significant shout out.

You Can’t Go Back

Diablo 2
Diablo 2

For the AggroChat Game Club, we tend to pick a game for both November and December…  since once you take the holidays into account… you really have a single functional month.  Last year the game that spanned the two was Fallout 4, and this year Grace chose Diablo 2 as her pick.  At first I was all about this because I have some seriously rose colored lenses about this game and my memory of it.  I remember trying to see who could get through all of Act V in a single lunch break, and so many farming runs to see if we could get the coveted set pieces.  However on replay…  I have changed drastically in my tastes since this game released, and while I was on the Diablo 3 doesn’t feel right bandwagon initially…  I have evolved.  Diablo 2 now feels like a grindy mess of a click fest with very little carrot and a hell of a lot of stick.  So I am honestly wishing I had NOT replayed the game…  and could leave it sitting happily in my memory untouched.  My recent experiences…  are proof of that adage that sometimes you can’t go back home.

But Maybe Sometimes You Can

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World of Warcraft: Legion

Saying that however… there are apparently times when you can go home and enjoy yourself in the same ways you used to.  There was a period of time when I was convinced that Warcraft would always only tangentially matter to me.  That I mourned a time and a place and a specific group of people that were long going and could likely never been aligned and arranged in the same pattern again.  I’ve devoted a lot of digital ink to this lament throughout the years…  and then Legion comes along and proves me to be completely full of shit.  I am not exactly sure what it is about this expansion but for the first time in seven years…  I feel more hope for the game ahead of me… than nostalgia for the time that has long passed.  I thought I was done raiding in World of Warcraft… and instead I am actively raiding three times a week…  one night of progression, one night of farmed content, and an amazing karazhan team.  I am super happy with the state of the guild, and the game… and how far we have come.  I am amped about the prospects of starting Nighthold on time when it releases…  and while I have not spent much of this break in game it still very much feels like home.  While I still have issues with some of the disjointed feeling of the forced faction storyline at times in Legion…  the bulk of the content is amazing and just seems to keep getting more interesting.

But Sometimes It Doesn’t Last

Final Fantasy XIV
Final Fantasy XIV

The other subtext of the year is how I have apparently fallen out of love with Final Fantasy XIV.  We made an attempt to get the band back together and start raiding once more… and it worked amazingly for awhile.  Honestly the Free Company is still an active and happy place…  just with myself not really playing much of a role in it.  I keep thinking that it will be fun to return…  but I knew something was a miss when I started completely blowing off the holiday events that I used to love so much.  Now I am significantly behind in gear and in story… and it is going to take a significant push to catch back up.  This push however is just something that I have not been willing to do as of yet.  I am excited about Stormblood…  but nowhere near as much as I was prior to the launch of Heavensward.  I guess the scale of Heavensward felt limited… with two dungeons per patch instead of three, and that alone wore on me.  When you are grinding two dungeons in an expert tier… it gets super old really fast.  They have since added in other content to occupy time like the deep dungeon…  but it also feels extremely grindy in nature.  I know at some point I will return and happily do so… but in the meantime I have simply not been forcing myself to log in and play a game I was not entirely into.

With Guns Blazing

Destiny
Destiny

The real winner of the year as far as my total time spent… I feel is probably Destiny.  This game has gone from being something that never quite clicked…. to turning into a game that I obsessively play on an almost nightly basis.  Over the break I spent a good chunk of my time playing “Not-Wipeout” and participating in the Sparrow Racing League.  I managed to hit the currently light cap of 400, and instead of it diminishing my desire to play… it seems to have only spurred me on further trying to get infusion fodder to upgrade all of my favorite items.  I cannot tell you how much being able to bring my favorite weapons from Year 2… into Year 3 has improved the game for me.  Traditionally MMO items are just stat sticks with a look and a feel…  and cosmetic systems make it so that you can look however you want therefor really negating any need to keep using older items.  Destiny however…  your items have a feel and a purpose and greatly effect the gameplay.  I have guns that I love… that feel amazing to use… that I cannot actually quantify in words as to why.  For example I love the Fabian Strategy… even though I technically have far superior legendary items that don’t eat my single exotic weapon slot.  I just feel sorry for my friends who are casually interested in the game… because I go from zero to “let me show you my pokemans” in a frighteningly short amount of time.

Bad Christmas Was A Bust

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The Division

This time last year… I was looking forward to the impending launch of The Division.  I thought this game would end up being my new Destiny, and even better so because it allowed me to get the sort of gun play and looter shooter action I craved without having to resort to consoles.  Unfortunately that was not the case and I never actually made it to the level cap.  Going into Division I thought I would have a strong community to support me… but one by one my friends checked out quickly for a lot of reasons not directly connected to the game play.  Largely they objected to the themes… and enough so that at least one of them immediately turned around and refunded the game through steam.  I could have reached outside of my circle of friends and found new communities…  but I was left with the awkward situation that my PS4 clan was of course playing on that platform and that I just didn’t really want to have to pester folks to play with me on the PC side.  As a result I solo’d a hell of a lot… and reached a point where to progress at the speed I wanted to progress I needed some people with me.  There was also the technical problem that I just don’t really like playing a third person over the shoulder shooter nearly as much as I enjoyed playing Destiny.  Even more than that…  the thing that was missing was the futurism of Destiny weapons.  None of the guns felt any different than any other gun to me… so ALL SMGs felt the same, ALL LMGs essentially felt the same etc…  they were more stat sticks than something that felt unique or individual.  I still hold hope that at some point that I will be able to get back into the game and push the last bit to hit the level cap and start doing interesting content.

Awesome But Not My Deal

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Overwatch

Sometimes there is a game that I am way more into the game world… and the lore than actually playing it.  This is very much the case with Overwatch.  I love the characters, and all of the storyline that is coming out surrounding the game… and while I enjoy playing the game in small bursts it just never seems to be the game I choose to play on any given night.  As a result I am something ridiculous like level 6… and have only logged a few hours in total playing the game.  I think much like with League of Legends… I would enjoy playing with a team of friends… but then you run into the issue of getting bored with bots… and not having the chops or desire to learn them to play against other pre-made teams.  I also tend to be most happy when I am playing Torbjorn, but always end up playing Reinhardt or Mercy because I end up getting randomed into a team full of Hanzos and Genjis.  I wish I had the burning desire to play this game because I love everything about its world and what it is doing with its narrative.  In truth I find myself mourning the game it could have been…  back when it was originally slated to be a new MMO.  I would to play a Destiny like game… set in the Overwatch universe.

 

Christmas Basebuilding

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My friend Grace calls today Super Xmas…  or the day that you get to chill out and rest after the manic running around that happens around attempting to make everyone happy on Christmas and Christmas Eve.  This absolutely used to be the case for me, but over the last few years Christmas has become a much more low key affair.  I’ve talked a bit about the concept of an anchor household, but for me most of those are now gone.  Instead we have to sort of make our own new traditions, and one of those recently has consisted of going out to dinner on Christmas Eve with my folks, and then coming back to our house and doing gifts together.  For years there used to be a strict schedule of… my folks and mothers side of the family on Christmas Eve, and my Dads side of the Family early early Christmas morning…  then my wife’s family for Christmas lunch and eventually another gathering Christmas evening.  Over the years deaths in the family have taken the corner stone of each of those gatherings to where there really isn’t a whole lot going on during the holidays on either of our families.

There were of course a few options…  one of which was the household that introduced me to the term “titty milk” a few years back and we opted out of that one.  Instead for the most part we just chilled out at home and enjoyed the fact that it was freaking 70 degrees outside for Christmas.  In the afternoon between thunderstorms we went out for a walk, which is something I need to start doing every day in an attempt to get myself prepared for all of the walking that is going to happen at Pax South.  As far as gaming goes… I spent a lot of time not actually gaming yesterday but more in an extended state of transitioning between games… as I checked twitter and surfed the web.  I did play a significant amount of the Sparrow Racing League, but largely playing remotely through the laptop.  I am getting surprisingly good at dealing with the input lag that comes from playing PS4 via PC, so much so that it actually takes a bit to get adjusted to using the real console again.  I am now in this place where I need two items to hit 400 light…  Ghost and Heavy.  I’ve since gotten two Exotic Heavy Engrams… but both of them decoded to 399 light instead of bumping on up to 400.  This seems like a massive bug because every engram seems to decode at 399 rather than giving me what is usually a level bump.  As far as the ghost goes… I tried some more forge only to have it bug out on me with the waves sitting at 100% for 10 mins and then eventually failing out without actually spawning the boss.

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Another thing that happened yesterday is that I fell into a giant Minecraft shaped hole as we hung out and watched some shows on demand.  It has been several years since I had legitimately played Minecraft and as a result I went back to pure vanilla for the moment at least while I get my bearings.  Before long I was back into my standard operating procedure which is digging a big hole and then eventually erecting some large structures.  I decided to have my main base out over the open water with a big tunnel leading from what is ultimately turning into my quarry.  I used the seed “BelChillingChristmas2016” and wound up with a pretty cool spawn.  My original cave opened into a giant chasm underground and I have been building the infrastructure needed to explore it more properly.  I wound up digging down into the rock and laying a bunch of ladders as I went which ultimately allowed me to create a shaft straight down to the chasm floor.  I have a hut of sorts down at ground level that lets me get down there in relative safety and at least see what monsters happen to be around.

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I plan on building a dock of sorts under my base that should allow me to launch boats easily for exploring new areas, and I also plan on building another big land bridge/tunnel to the other nearby coast giving me access to new areas.  Right now a lot of my time has been spent simply quarrying cobblestone and hollowing out the mountain side for that purpose.  There is a bunch of gold in the chasm, but I don’t really have much need for it yet.  I have not seen any of the more useful materials like Diamond or Red Stone so at some point I am probably going to have to do the whole dig down to bedrock thing and start some branch mining.  At this very moment however I am trying to expand my base of operations and make more safe space for me to travel in.  Minecraft is one of those games that triggers my base building instinct to the extreme, and I am ultimately falling back into the familiar patterns I do when I always play this game.  In truth I should be playing Diablo 2 since we plan on recording the game of the month show this coming week… but for now I am indulging myself in a little bit of structured madness.

Curve Beating

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I can in all honesty say I did not really expect to be placing this clipping of a screenshot on my blog.  When we cleared Normal Emerald Nightmare… I was pleased as hell.  When we turned around and cleared Normal Trial of Valor…  I was ecstatic.  When we started work on Heroic Emerald Nightmare…  I figured that it would give us a challenge right up until the point that Nighthold Normal was released and that we would ultimately switch gears.  I mean Nighthold is supposedly slotted for January 17th… which is only 26 days away depending on how you count today.  We however started making some significant progress in Heroic Emerald Nightmare… and in truth I didn’t really dare to hope we would manage to get through it yet.  We have several friends who are raiding mythics in a much more serious capacity than our guild raid.  The awesome thing is… we are apparently the sort of raid that they still enjoy coming along on because of the interaction between all of the members.  So in part I chocked our Heroic victories up to the number of “ringer” dps we ended up bringing in as a result.  Last night we were extremely short on numbers and missing most of this overpowered dps that we had so often been bringing.  I had resigned myself to hopefully repeating our previous progress, and just enjoying the process.

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Now is the point where I tell you… that I can not possibly be prouder of my guild.  Instead of struggling with the absence of some mythic ringers…  we instead continued to perform at an admirable level as we not only defeated…  but one shot several of the bosses we have never attempted.  We had some early struggles as we essentially got back in the swing of the raid…  for me not being able to make the last two Friday nights I felt more than a little rusty.  However by the time we reached “Spiderbirb” we were trucking along nicely and managed the first new one shot of the evening.  Similarly we seemingly rolled over Ilgynoth… or at least pulled out a victory doing the fight in a single burn phase.  From there we worked on Cenarius and once again managed to pull out a victory in a single attempt, which lead us to only having Xavius to work on.  This was sitting at 9 pm my time… and I thought to myself that we were in a good position to get a bunch of attempts in… giving us at least 30 minutes before the official end of the raid.  I also thought that with it being the holidays… we might be able to extend a bit to get the kill if needed.  It turns out we didn’t need all of that time on attempts, because we had a very close first shot and managed to pull out the victory on attempt two giving us still about fifteen minutes to spare before our official ending time.  It was a really great night, and I am amped about our prospects going into Nighthold.  We will for the first time this expansion be starting new content on exactly the week it comes out, which is a bit of a point of pride for me.  I love feeling like we can be casual, but still extremely successful.

By the time the raid was over I realized that I had not actually spent any time with the Luna that evening.  So I took her into my office to chill out and get some attention while I opted to play some Destiny.  At this point I am 399 light… and have limited my list of needs down to replacing my 394 Ghost Shell, 399 boots, and 399 Heavy Weapon.  I had a moment of extreme excitement at one point in the evening when I got an exotic heavy engram…  which decoded at 399 instead of the 400 I have been getting from the SRL event.  Before long I was joined by my friend Grace and we hung out doing some racing.  She was working on one of the quest steps where you had to get ten races where you place in the top three… and I maybe just maybe played a little aggressively with the other drivers.  There was at least one time when I happened to ram into the person who was closing in on her then third place slot.  Who knew you could tank with a speeder bike?  In truth I had seen a few clans doing this over my time racing… where they were essentially clearing the way for their friend to come in and snatch the first place position so I considered it completely fair game.  That said she managed to pull out a few come from behind second place victories like the one I decided to screenshot here.  The bonus of the entire night was that in both cases we improved our light levels… and simply hanging out and chatting made the whole racing thing go significantly faster.

I have honestly had some extremely good luck during the SRL with crucible weapon drops.  Last night was apparently no different as I managed to pick up a really nice version of the NL Shadow 701X.  Firstly it has triple tap which is a stat I love for boss encounters… or anything else I am pretty certain to land three precision shots in rapid succession.  To crank up the stability is Hand-laid stock… which ultimately reduces the range but I can live with that at 47.  Finally hidden hand helps with triple tap in making it slightly easier to get those precision shots…  so all in all the weapon has some really nice synergy.  The only negative is this is a scout rifle… and I don’t really tend to use a lot of scout rifles.  This lives in the Mida Multi-Tool family, and actually has a higher rate of fire…  which makes it feel extremely spammy.  Now if I could have replaced Hidden Hand with Full Auto… this would have been just about my favorite scout rifle.  In any case this is definitely something worth holding onto and other than my Hand of Judgement from Challenge of Elders… I didn’t really have that many legendary scout rifles that I enjoyed using.  In any case that still gives me a good roll for Eyasluna, and god rolls for Hopscotch Pilgrim and potentially NL Shadow 701X coming from SRL so far.