Happy Tears

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One of the problems with getting older is that you can’t seem to snap back quite as quickly from those late nights.  There used to be a time where I could stay up until 1 am and then still get up for work at 5:30…  those days are long gone.  I had every intent last night of staying up until the 11 pm my time start of Destiny 2, but around 9:45 I decided there was no way I was actually going to make that and went on to bed.  Instead I got up this morning and poked around a little bit.  I was shocked to see my Guardian staring back at me…  so instead of playing with the character generator I just went with it.  This is not the first time that I was brought to tears this morning, and it wouldn’t be the last.  I am weirdly emotional about the launch of Destiny 2, because on so many levels the original was a very important game for me.  I can’t quite put it into words why, but it really was.  The first time however was through a sequence of memories…  that I don’t want to go into too much detail on for fear of ruining the experience for others.  Basically I went into the game expecting to have to start from scratch…  and while we have…  the game remembers us.  It feels like Bungie really does care about the actions we took defending the city over the last three years… and while they didn’t want too much of that to factor in they gave us a nice stoic nod.

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As far as the game itself…  most of that is going to have to wait until this evening when I have some time to actually sit down and play it properly.  I already feel connected to this world…  because its the world I left behind forever changed by the actions of the Cabal Dominus Ghaul.  From here this is where we forge our new path…  our brand new adventures.  I am in no real rush to raid…  so I want to take my time to savor these moments as they happen.  In part I am experiencing everything knowing that in another month… I will be doing it all over again on with the PC launch.  I am largely just hoping that I understand the world by then and can tackle it far more efficiently.  I have to say…  having crappy weapons never felt so good because you are starting in very meager circumstances…  and you appreciate every bullet.  Its time to rebuild our legacy.  I will see you in game tonight, and hopefully I will have gotten the tears out of my system by then.

Guildhalls and Shield Charge

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Tonight is the launch of the Destiny 2 console editions.  Technically it is launching on Wednesday but they are starting that clock at Midnight Eastern Time…  which means since I am in Central time I might actually get a chance to poke my head in and check out the game at 11 pm tonight.  I have not plans to do a late night marathon or anything like that, but today I am mostly wanting to show off the new artwork from Ammosart that I commissioned for my blog header.  Since adding “LalaBel” to the header with the launch of Stormblood…  I’ve been plotting to add something up there to balance things out.  With the launch of Destiny 2 and my new love of the Sentinel Titan… I thought it would be pretty great to add a version of me charging with the void shield.  The only problem here is…  Ammo was working off a game that wasn’t out yet.  I gathered up a bunch of screenshots from the PS4 beta, and attempted to augment them with as many relevant screenshots as I could find around the interwebs.  I am super happy with the end result and she did a great job of capturing the whole “covered in void energy” aspect that happens when you are ping ponging between mobs while charging like Captain America.  Now I have a version of myself as a Sunbreaker that she did earlier as my avatar…  and now a really cool version of the Sentinel that emblazons the blogs masthead.  I had hoped she would get it done in time for the launch and like a trooper she pinged me last night with the final version.  I cannot express in words how great Ammo is at this sort of thing.. and like always you should totally check out her website and tumblr for more awesome stuff.  These are of course paid commissions, so please please please don’t go pestering her for free work.

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As far as other happenings this weekend… I split time between Guild Wars 2 and World of Warcraft.  In truth I played way more WoW than I expected to be playing, especially working on assorted World Quests and Emissary missions.  That said the bulk of my time was spent working on a bunch of scattered objectives in Guild Wars 2.  About a month ago the AggroChat crew and friends managed to get a guild hall purchased for Greysky Armada the GW2 branch of our FFXIV guild.  The only problem is… saving up the currency and influence was only the beginning because you have to in theory fight to take back the hall from the mo that had invaded it.  We tried this with about five players shortly after purchasing the hall and failed miserably.  I’ve talked about the process before, but functionally there are mobs that spawn in that you have to take out… and you have something like 3 mins from the moment they spawn to defeat them.  The problem is that they could be anywhere on a rather large map.  With five players, if we happened to be close to one of the Maws we could take it out without much problem…  but the run time combined with the time to chew through the copious amount of adds meant that we were always behind the curve.  Each time you fail to defeat a Maw the toxin levels increase… which is functionally a hard timer on how many attempts you have before you have to call it and try again.  Monday afternoon we managed to gather up a bunch of folks and had I believe nine people working on this mission and that seemed to go so much more smoothly.  I think there was one that we failed to get, but shockingly we kept knocking down Maw after Maw until we were rapidly approaching the final boss phase… where you have like 10 minutes to defeat the purple border Legendary mob that you can see me fighting in the above image.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon pouring through our vaults and dredging up materials to attempt to purchase upgrades.  By the time we called it a night we had a chest full and ready for a couple more upgrades…  and have the guild sitting at Level 5.  Basically at the moment we are favor locked, which is the currency you gain by doing guild quests.  We did the Trek one yesterday which is pretty simple… and failed miserably at completing the bounty task.  That one gives you 15 minutes to kill 3 mobs that are roaming around the world.  Firstly the mobs are not static spawns and you have to go “find them”, and then some are spawned by doing other activities…  like kicking suspicious barrels in a zone with about 300 of them.  The real challenge though was killing the mobs fast enough because these spawn in as champions… and one of them was absolutely straight up one-shotting me as a Hammer Warrior which is pretty tanky in the grand scheme of things.  Basically this again is a situation where we need more people on at a given time so we can spread out and then coalesce on a target when someone finds one and take it down quickly…  then return to the hunt once again.  I also need to see what the specifics about Hard Weekly Challenges are…  to see if this is a thing we can actually manage to do.  I am questioning it however given that it suggests that we have 15 players…  and so far this suggestion number has been pretty right on the money.

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It feels like opening up the Guild Halls has infused me with new purpose because finally I have a reason to be stockpiling all of these materials.  I am just thankful that none of the materials are the ones that I have been needing for pushing Weaponsmithing up higher…  which currently sits at 486.  The other thing about me is I am notorious for taking the hardest route to get somewhere…  and this has been true with Mastery points.  For whatever reason I decided to keep focusing on the Pact Commander tree…  and then once I realized what was at the bottom of that tree I just kept going.  This put me in the position of needing 8 Mastery points to finish it out and gain “Advanced Logistics” that enables the Auto Loot checkbox in the options menu.  What this does is allow you to stop feeling the need to hit F constantly to try and loot corpses after everything you killed.  I know over the years I have left a lot of loot on the battlefield because I get caught in the heat of the moment and am busy whacking things with my hammer to notice that I had a prompt telling me to loot things.  The only negative here is I am afraid this will be one hell of a way to fill my bags…  but then again I have access to Mistlock for selling and banking anytime I like.  Additionally as we build out the Guild Hall it will serve as a similar option some day.  I’ve known for awhile that there were a bunch of Mastery points that I could get by running around Tyria and communing with certain locations.  The problem is I never really did anything about it… until last night when I literally ran around and collected all of them.  This gave me enough Mastery points to earn Advanced Logistics that I was after as well as enough to pick up the next rank in the Fractal Attunement tree.  Overall this takes my Mastery rank to 29…  which still feels like a complete newbie in the grand scheme of things.  Every time you complete one objective in this game it seems to unlock a dozen more that you didn’t even know existed…  which is I guess how it has kept people engaged over these last five years.

 

 

For the Puppies

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I’ve rattled on over the last few days at some of the things I have been disappointed thus far in the Destiny Demo experience, or at least airing some of my concerns and misgivings.  I thought I should probably spend some time this morning talking about one of the things that they are doing amazingly well with the launch of Destiny 2.  One of the core reasons that most of my friends bounced off of this game…  was the lack of story.  Don’t get me wrong…  there is plenty of story to be had…  they just lay it out in a way that is largely nonsensical.  Only by hoarding weapon and armor descriptions…  hundreds of grimoire cards… and then cross referencing those against missions in the game and random nonsense that is in the background of the level design…  do you actually get the true picture of what is going on.  Please note… that I didn’t actually do this on my own but at some point I stumbled across the Myelin games channel and drank deeply of the font of lore theory.  If you want the story in a much more digestible form then I refer you again to the amazing Lore Primer video that MyNameIsByf created where he attempts to lay everything that we know for certain out in a linear timeline…  that happens to be an hour and a half in run time.  Prior to launch they claimed the game would have a story line rivaling that of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or Star Wars…  and we all balked.  In truth however it does in fact have this story woven through the fabric of the game… but makes every possible attempt to disguise it from us and make it harder to figure out than is humanly reasonable.

This time around however they swore they had changed, and when we got our hands on the PS4 demo…  as I have said before there is literally more story in the Homecoming mission than there was in the original game sequence leading up to the Black Garden.  I am not trying to be hyperbolic here… but in truth there is way more character exposition than exists in any form in Vanilla Destiny.  We were introduced to a cast of characters…  like The Traveler, The Speaker, The Stranger…  and a handful of characters that I could tell we were supposed to care about that served as our class leads….  but never actually did much in the way of leading.  We also had a nonsensical enemy in the form of “The Darkness” which sorta felt as stupid as attempting to go to war against “Terrorism”.  We lacked anything resembling a big bad Villain that we the players were focused on…  and when we did get raids…  we had no emotional payoff in taking down Aetheon or Crota…  because they were just another name in a long line of names that meant nothing to us.  One of the best experiences I have ever had was when I finally took down Arthas… the Lich King for the first time…  because I had an entire expansion focused on combating the forces of the scourge and playing cat and mouse with him across a continent.  When it finally resolved and we got to see that cut scene for the very first time…  there were literal tears of joy in my eyes.  With the Taken King we got a better shot at a big baddie…  but even then we didn’t really have enough time to learn to hate him the way we should have.  The emotional payback element was largely missing because he zoned into our solar system… blew up a bunch of Awoken… and then wrecked a ship that wasn’t even ours.  We had a dozen or so missions to get into her head, and by the time we took out Oryx…  it was cool and definitely felt epic but was still lacking any resounding payback theme.

The core problem there… is the Taken King content and our supposed “war” with Oryx happened disconnected from anything that we actually cared about as players.  The Tower… our home for the last three years remained largely unscathed…  as did the Reef other than a few NPCs swapping places.  There was no sense of loss to fuel our desire for revenge, and while it is a freaking amazing expansion and a leap forward in storytelling…  but still not quite there.  With Destiny 2 there are so many things changing… and in truth they needed to.  There will be players that lament the loss of their shiny vault full of weapons… and I won’t like there are a lot of things I will be sad to say goodbye to.  However what we are getting is a tangible reason for fighting and that means so much more than any given piece of loot could…  and the folks that know me really well will be shocked to hear me say that.  The history of the city is built on the backs of major flash points that we can only really find out about in legend… or in the name of locations.  Growing up I heard about all of the things that my Grandfathers went through with World War II…  how one Grandfather stormed the beach at Normandy…  got shot up by a gunner and just happened to fall into a trench with a medic that could patch his punctured lung.  That was his story though… and not mine…  much in the same way that the tales about the fabled Guardians of the past are just legends and didn’t really factor much into my day to day game play.  In Destiny 2 we start the game by living through the fall of the Tower and the loss of our Light as a source of power…  as well as the potential loss of our constant companion the Ghost.  We have reason and motive to want to take back what was ours from this Chubby Darth Malgus.  I am so ready to hit the ground and start taking down Cabal as I at the same time attempt to fortify and rebuild our new home…  the Farm.

Another thing that the Taken King did better was start to give our class leads a personality.  Cayde-6 went from being a random Exo Hunter in the tower…  to Robotic Mal from Firefly.  Zavala went from being that dude that sold me crappy Titan gear…  to being the Stalwart defender of the tower and the “worrier in chief” about everything.  Ikora Rey went from being someone I never actually talked to… because the Warlock jump is horrible…  to being this sassy arcane dynamo.  The Homecoming mission took all of these elements and built on it, and they have been carrying this mission forward in the form of a flood of videos about Destiny 2.  I’ve been linking them in and out of the paragraphs of text, and they do this amazing job of packaging up the elements of the world that you might want to care about and delivering them to you on a silver platter.  Yesterday the live action video shipped and it is truly amazing… and I said this before but there is no song better for a “getting shit done” montage than Sabotage by the Beastie Boys.  Leading up to this however there have been five character vignettes… one for each of the class leads:  Cayde-6, Zavala, and Ikora Rey…  as well as one for Hawthorne the person who is going to be helping us a lot at our new home on The Farm…  as well as one for Ghaul our new bad guy focus.  They’ve done more in the months leading up to the release of this sequel to set the stage and give us a reason to care about it…  than they did in the entirety of three years of the original.  For me…  its like getting to share this gift with all of my friends because I was the only one mental enough to actually go digging into the lore.  For the last few years my friends have had to listen to me rattle on about this or that from Destiny without actually knowing any of the context.  Here is a giant fucking context sandwich…  and it gives me a lot of hope for the future.  I think Bungie gets it… and they understand that you cannot just throw a train of breadcrumbs in your game and call it good.  They started in the middle of an established story…  but never gave us enough bearings to be able to really find our way clear of caring about what was going on.  I’ve said before that the central focus of Destiny is shooting space monsters with space guns… and I still stand by that.  If you are really not into that premise then no amount of story is really going to make you want to stay.  However…  it does give you some reasons for why you might want to shoot those space monsters…  and understand where exactly your space guns game from.

 

The Farm

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The PC demo of Destiny 2 so far is following the same basic pattern that the PS4 weekend did, including a brief two hour window for players to explore the new Farm social space.  During the PS4 weekend I didn’t actually get the participate in this because it happened during a Saturday afternoon when I was out running errands with my wife.  As a result I was more than amped to be able to actually see what would ultimately be our new home as Guardians.  Are we even Guardians now without the light?  The space is gorgeous though I have to admit I am constantly feeling like someone is just about to line up a sniper shot on me.  The only times we have been able to be in the EDZ aka the European Dead Zone as player are during a handful of Crucible maps…  one of which has this insane corridor down the center of the map where everyone snipes you.  The farm as a whole though was a fairly dead experience given that there are no NPCs at all…  nor is there even the fabled Chicken.  That said I think the farm is going to work a lot better than the Tower did, as everything we need seems to be greatly compacted.  I liked this about the Temple of Iron, but the only problem there was we didn’t have access to the various faction vendors.  I am however super pumped that Tyra Karn is the Cryptarch we are keeping rather than Master Rahool or the charlatan Master Ives at the Reef that was constantly bugged.  This is the point where the AggroChat crew gives me crap for knowing the names of the Cryptarchs.

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I think more than anything I am curious to see how this space populates with stuff.  I’ve heard rumor that this is going to be a lot like Meredil was in World of Warcraft, that as you roam around the world you “save” people and bring them back to the farm.  If this is true then I guess it makes sense why there were no NPCs showing up… because there may simply not be a basepop for the zone.  What is available may load based on your progression in the game, with some sort of an instancing tech.  Either that or they may have just stripped everything out for the sake of the demo.  There are folks in my clan that reported that the social space worked their CPU and GPU harder than any other area we have seen, and I can only imagine that is due to all of the models being tracked.  I am not sure what the new social space limits are, but it definitely seemed like a sizable bit larger than tower.  During one of the heated football matches, there were probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 players actively on the farm.  This is small by MMO standards but pretty decent sized for something that is functionally a shooter lobby.  The other big takeaway is just how damned gorgeous everything is.  There are docks leading out on the lake… and I am hoping that we maybe get a few boats to explore.  The area surrounding the Farm in game supposedly has lots of signs and directions in German… so in theory that places this area in Germany?  Considering all we have really seen of Earth is the area surrounding the Baikonur Cosmodrome, it is going to be awesome seeing completely new vistas.

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After some time roaming around the farm, I gathered together with a few clanmates to run the strike since Tony aka DrGoob had not seen it.  The clan is slowly in the process of migrating from Band to Discord…  to some success.  The primary reason is that the PC chat built into Destiny 2 is absolutely horrible.  I mean on some level it is functional chat, but it sounds worse than any audio on a PC should.  In many ways it reminds me of the way that the original implementation of voice chat sounded in World of Warcraft.  Functionally it is tinny and quiet and compressed to living hell to make it take up as little bandwidth as humanly possible.  The other night Grace and I attempted to use it, and ultimately fell back on other voice comms because it was just too bad to stomach.  Apparently Tequila Mockingbird reached the same conclusion and finally latched onto Discord with both hands as providing a reasonable chat experience.  The voice chat on PSN was always horrible… but you sort of put up with it because it was a console.  It is a complete sin to use something this bad on the PC where there is Discord, Teamspeak, Mumble, Ventrilo, Skype and a plethora of other options waiting to be used.  The real interesting thing ahead is to see how the game shakes out… and where everyone ends up.  Thus far pretty much every PS4 player that has access to a machine that can run this game…  is heavily leaning towards the PC version.  The PC running on the lowest preset… looks better than the stock PS4 running the game.  Let that sink in for a moment.  In truth I would say the PC running at Medium…  looks better than what I have seen from the PS4 Pro captured footage.  My three year old gaming laptop runs the game well enough to give my PS4 a run for its money.  Now I plan on playing both platforms because I like the PS4 and I like having multiple copies of Destiny…  but It is almost 100% certain that I will be playing almost exclusively on the PC for awhile when it finally launches in October.

When A Beta Isn’t

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Last night I managed to run the Inverted Spire strike with a few friends…  Grace and Ammo.  For Grace it was her first time running the strike and while she was not as rabid…  was also a veteran of Destiny 1.  Ammo on the other hand…  the closest she had ever been to Destiny was drawing my Sunbreaker themed avatar.  If you know me very well… or are in that core group of people that I hang out regularly with…  you have had to listen to countless hours of me retelling things that happened in Destiny.  All of that apparently made her curious enough to try it out now that it was coming to the PC and available for download through the already very familiar Battle.net client.  Ammo while completely new to Destiny was by no means an FPS rookie because over the last year or so she has played a significant amount of Overwatch and is way the hell better than I am at it.  One of the things that I like about Destiny on the PC is how largely ubiquitous basic controls are if you have ever played a modern shooter.  Sure there are all manner of extraneous “super power” keys but the core gameplay of shoot shoot reload fall into the standard control scheme we are all used to.  The only real adjustment period of me was figuring out which key binds near WASD did which “power moves”.  Grace took to the game rather quickly and got to play big kid at several moments as she was able to get over and rez the rookie well before I could.  All in all it was a really fun experience and I am super glad that I wound up running the strike in this manner, since during the PS4 beta I largely just random queued for it.

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Last nights experience got me thinking that maybe just maybe releasing through the Battle.net client was more than just a way of having to skip the infrastructure development costs of going to a brand new platform.  Overwatch is a weird game because while it is at its core a competitive shooter… it is also one wrapped in so much story that it is impossible to not at least know some of it even if you are not actively playing the game.  This is a game that I saw be adopted at frightening rates by gamers who were well versed in the Blizzard ecosystem but never really considered themselves fans of the first person shooter genre.  As a result many have had their horizons broadened to realize that yes they could do this shooter thing and with practice get rather damned good at it.  Now we have this Destiny thing coming along and poking its head into their already familiar gaming environment…  so why not take a peek.  I’ve already seen a lot of posts on my twitter feed talking about how individuals are enjoying the Destiny experience but only ever downloaded it because it was available for free through the Battle.net client.  Cross pollination is really beautiful thing… and I have found myself in this same boat several times in the past.  I am not the biggest fan of League of Legends…  but I immediately tried Heroes of the Storm because I wanted to see the Blizzard take on it.  I am not really a huge fan of RTS games anymore…  but I occasionally play Starcraft II because it has amazing storytelling.  I think the Battle.net coup for Destiny… will be bringing a whole bunch of new eyes into the franchise.

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Here is where we get to the problem.  The “Beta” that we are getting to experience isn’t actually Destiny.  It is a bit of a hollow shell that should have been clearly labelled as a demo, because it lacks so many of the reasons why I spent so many hours playing the first game.  If you look at my time played on the tracker sites… something like 77% of my time was spent doing random stuff on Patrol missions.  I liked roaming around, doing events… unlocking secrets on the dreadnaught…  all the while enjoying the really amazing gunplay.  Where are the events like Archon’s Forge or Court of Oryx…  that I could literally spend hours running over and over.  Don’t get me wrong… the Inverted Spire strike is a hell of a lot of fun, and even the 4 player Crucible is starting to grow on me.  The problem being however is that we really are not putting the best foot forward for a bunch of players that may or may not have ever experienced the franchise.  The other problem is that we are not exactly doing a great job of giving players that bounced hard off of Destiny 1 a great reason to feel positive about coming back.  Sure the Homecoming mission has more story elements in it than the entire vanilla game…  but I am questioning if that is enough.  I am bought in for the long haul because I have loved Destiny as a concept and an experience since the moment I got into the original Alpha of the game on the PS4.  Taken King proved to me that the game was worth my devotion and I have been back and at least peripherally active ever since.  I am a member of their core demographic… but had they maybe given us something other than a demo…  it might be enough to gain new followers rather than just galvanize their existing player base.  I hope people can see through the cracks and see the game that is ultimately going to be there behind the walled gardens.  I feel like I can and since I am also rabidly gobbling up all of the news that is leaking out about the content that is waiting on the console players September 6th…  I am so sold that I am planning on playing once again on two different platforms.  I am just not sure that we sold Ammo on the experience other than giving her a fun night of running a space shooter dungeon.

 

Destiny 2 PC Beta Thoughts

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Last night was the beginning of the Destiny 2 PC beta for those of us who have already preordered the game.  I am one of those weirdos that loves Destiny so much that I plan on playing it on multiple platforms.  With Destiny year 2 and beyond I played it actively on both the PS4 and Xbox One… and going forward I am planning on doing the same and splitting time between PC and PS4.  One of the things you need to realize is that I have some strange habits when it comes to gaming.  I split my time between my gaming desktop upstairs and my gaming laptop in the living room.  I’ve found the secret to marital happiness as a gamer is to be able to be flexible in my gaming habits and there are nights when I just need to be more available than cloistered in my office with my ear cans on.  As a result I have two systems to worry about being able to play Destiny on.  The positive is however as someone who potentially might be interested in Destiny 2, you are going to get functionally two different sets of reviews for the game…  one on a system that is heftier than the recommended specifications and one that is closer to the minimums.

Gaming Desktop

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Machine Specifications

  • Intel Core i7 5820k 3.3ghz 6 Core Processor
  • Asus X99-A/USB 3.1 ATX Motherboard
  • 32 gb G.Skill Ripjaws V Series DDR4-2400 Memory
  • MSI Geforce GTX 980 4GB Twin Frozr Video Card
  • System SSD but Game Running on Mechanical Hard Drive

For starters I spent absolutely zero time fiddling with the sliders and I just went with the defaults that it handed to me.  The end result was a gorgeous 1080p 60 fps experience.  I don’t have fancy monitors or anything even vaguely close to outputting a 4k or even 1440p signal so I went with it.  With time I plan on ratcheting up the detail level to see what I can do, but I am hearing from folks with 1080s that they are having issues sustaining frame rate on Ultra so more or less I am pretty damned happy with the results.  In truth the hardest thing I had to figure out was some third party screenshot tool that would actually record the screen.  Bungie has done a bunch of stuff to disable overlays and I had to fall back on the Nvidia Experience tools to be able to capture anything.  I am presently running the game in Windowed Fullscreen which is my preferred method and it just works great.  The difference in quality between the PS4 and PC is noticeable even just running the game in 1080p.    All of the textures just look crisper and less muddled, but that said the console experience with Destiny 2 on even a stock PS4 like mine….  looks noticeably better than the original Destiny.  Last night I tried out everything but the strike, and saw zero frame drop at any point during my experiences.  I have been keeping an eye on the lower left corner of the screen where I have the Nvidia framerate tools running… and the only time I saw drop was upon going into a pre-rendered cutscene.  All of those are still at 30 fps, which I would assume is to be able to support all of the different configurations of the game.

Gaming Laptop

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Machine Specifications

  • Asus ROG GL551JW
  • Intel Core i7 4720HQ 2.6 ghz
  • 16 gb DDR3 Memory
  • Geforce GTX 960M 2GB GDDR5
  • Mechanical Hard Drive
  • 3rd Quarter 2014 Release Date

While the Desktop was a picture of simplicity… literally everything about the Laptop experience was a hassle.  I included the street date of the laptop just for reference and to show that I am attempting to get this running in functionally a three year old machine.  I knew that 1080p was largely out of the question so I started trying to dial in specs for a 720p setup.  Since my laptop has a 15 inch screen that seemed completely reasonable and generally the only reason why I run MMOs in 1080p is because of the UI element resolution.  The biggest issue that I kept running into is that for some reason it felt like my mouse was dying on me.  I would have these issues where I could not swing my viewpoint to the right of my model, and then other times I couldn’t scope in my weapon at all.  After trying a bunch of configuration options I noticed that it was ultimately happening at the same place each time in the mission, which made me start doubting it was just the mouse.  After a bunch of searching I found a thread on Bungie PC Support forum talking about this same issue.  What I ultimately had to do was go find the executable for Destiny 2 and choose properties off the right click menu…  then change the compatibility settings to disable Scaling on High DPI settings.  Note this is called something different depending on the version of windows you are running, but in all cases it will be some Option referencing DPI.

Once this change was made my mouse suddenly started working as it should.  One more round of tweaks saw me setting the display mode to Windowed Fullscreen and I was finally playing the game in pretty good shape.  While its not amazing… it is playable at a generally 30 fps…  however as you can see in the upper right hand corner of the above screenshot…  I am dipping down into the high 20s occasionally.  The biggest challenge is that Destiny requires a ton of VRAM.  When I was playing on the Medium preset I was consuming every last bit of VRAM available and borrowing from the system memory.  I really appreciate Bungie including a gauge under the video settings to show just how much you are consuming and how much is left available.  The high preset functionally takes a little bit over 2 gb, and I would assume each time you ratchet it up those requirements go up again.  The other thing you can take away from the fact I was running it on a laptop… is that effectively everything on a laptop performs like it is a generation older than the equivalent Desktop component.  So my 4th gen i7 in truth performs about like a 3rd gen i5…  and my gtx 960m…  effectively performs the same as a gtx 760 in a desktop card.  Between the two setups you should be able to extrapolate how this game should be able to run on whatever your current gaming PC setup seems to be.

Gameplay Discussion

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For a complete write up about my feelings of the Destiny 2 beta… I highly suggest you check out my PS4 impressions post from July.  I am not going to spend a lot of time this morning talking about general topics.  Instead I am going to focus in on the tweaks that were made between the two betas.  The first noticeable thing is that the recharge rate that I complain so much about on the PS4 seems to be greatly improved.  During the tower courtyard fight on PS4 it felt like I was lucky getting a single super charge and a single grenade charge while fighting the three waves of red legion cabal.  During the PC beta… I could easily get 3 super charges and 2 grenade charges during the same time.  Grenade still lags a bit from what I would have liked it to be… but part of that might simply be that I am used to running around with the Armamentarium and as a result always have two grenade charges available, so even when I use one… there is almost always one sitting there waiting in reserve.  Things just feel “better” as a result of the recharge rates being cranked up, and it feels more like the Destiny experience I am used to.  My guess is that they have increased the rate of recharge you get from killing things, because the effect was a bit less noticeable in the Crucible.  Previously in the PS4 beta everyone got their supers at exactly the same time… which was just a few minutes from the end of the match.  During the PC beta I managed to get off two supers and was getting close to a third by the time the match ended, so in theory had I been playing better I probably would have easily gotten three supers.

The other big takeaway is that everything just feels more polished.  This one isn’t easy to quantify, but everything about this build felt production ready.  The other big takeaway is that once I got used to the hotkeys… the PC experience is just flawless and before long I reached a point where it was just as instinctive for me to hit F to activate my super as it is to mash my two shoulder buttons.  So far I have only modified one hotkey, and that was to change ~ from toggling between weapons since I use that as my push to talk key.  Instead I use the alternate key which is mouse wheel to shift between weapons.  For those going into the game I thought it might be useful really quick to run down the basic hotkeys.

  • Movement – WASD + Mouselook
  • Primary Fire/Light Attack – Left Mouse
  • Scope/Heavy Attack – Right Mouse
  • Melee/Block – C
  • Grenade – Q
  • Reload – R
  • Jump – Space
  • Toggle Sprint – Shift
  • Toggle Crouch – Ctl
  • Class Ability – V
  • Super Move – F
  • Air Super Move – X
  • Interact With Objects – E
  • Kinetic Weapon – 1
  • Secondary Weapon – 2
  • Heavy Weapon – 3
  • Rotation Through Weapons – Mouse Wheel
  • Toggle Chat – T
  • Deploy Ghost – Tab
  • Return to Orbit – O
  • Character Loadout Screen – F1

It is a lot of hotkeys to remember, but in truth it largely matches the pattern I was used to with PC shooters already.  All in all I thought the PC Beta played amazingly well and it is going to be a really hard call as to which game gets the majority of my attention.  I think ultimately it is going to be determined by how many people that I know are chosing which platforms.  The only other thing that really concerns me are the general limitations of Battle.net already.  I feel like I am already bumping up against the maximum friend number there because of the various other Blizzard games that I play… and for the most part everyone in my Destiny clan is not already in that list.  So it is going to be a bit frustrating to try and find space to add everyone new in.  I am also really curious to find out how each of you felt that the PC Beta was when it goes “open beta” today.

 

 

 

Traditions End

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For the last several years there has been a tradition I have observed… and that is going upstairs and checking to see what is available on Xur for the week.  For the unindoctrinated… Xur is an Agent of the Nine… a group that we know next to nothing about in Destiny.  He also is somewhat of a garbage collector and brings trinkets for us to purchase each week either in the Tower or Reef social space.  Various activities in the game reward a currency called Strange Coins… and these are then exchanged for various items that always include an exotic weapon and a piece of exotic armor for each class.  The armor rolls are notoriously bad but it is still a reasonable way to get a jump start in light levels, and I absolutely abused this fact on my Xbox One account when I was leveling it.  One of my favorite sources of Xur info is from Patrick Casey, and at the head of this mornings video he made a comment about how he is just about to never have to see this squid faced guy again.  Not sure why… but it just sort of finally hit me…  our time with Destiny is almost over.  Within the next few days the PC Beta for Destiny 2 will begin… and then shortly after that the official launch of Destiny 2 on PS4 and Xbox One.  This really is the last weekend when Xur really matters at least for me in particular because starting on Monday I will be playing Destiny 2 on my PC systems… and starting the following Wednesday I will be playing it on my PS4.

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Destiny 1 as a whole has been an amazing experience, and I am looking forward to seeing Destiny Item Manager (the first screenshot) updating to start showing me all of my baubles that I begin collecting in Destiny 2.  A huge chunk of my experience has been my clan, and it is awesome to see the clan page updated to fly a brand new banner in preparation for what things are ultimately going to look like in Destiny 2.  I’ve worn the tag even when it didn’t really matter… like on my Xbox One account… and was proud to see it rise out of the ashes of Axioma.  Right now my future in the Destiny universe seems a little up in the air.  I am not entirely certain if I will be playing as a PS4 primary or PC primary…  and even then I have no clue what my clan situation is going to look like.  This is where my various gaming worlds begin to collide.  Destiny 2 existing on the PC is going to bring a lot of long time friends out of the woodwork that are interested in playing the game.  At that point I am not sure if it is better to flood TQMB…  or just start something on my own.  I am not even sure if you can have split clans based on platform… or if your Bungie account can only join one period.  I would like to remain in Tequila Mockingbird on what seems like the platform that they will be most active on…  aka the PlayStation 4.

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It seems really weird to be thinking that I might be standing in the Tower for the last time.  Sure Destiny 1 will remain in existence for a period of time… and I can always go back and experience things.  The problem is… will I actually want to?  Destiny 2 looks to be the first game with a ton more things to be doing… and it feels like something worth sacrificing an entire world for.  Sure I have gotten used to seeing The Traveler floating just off in the distance…  but I will get used to the new visuals of the European Dead Zone.  I will miss my vault full of weapons that I have accumulated through hours of grinding… and bending the arm of Squirrel and Jex into helping me do random stuff.  Destiny has been a magical time for me… and it feels like I have been away far too long.  I am ready to dust off my controller skills and venture forth into the new world when it opens on September 6th.  While I feel a little misty about the thought of abandoning the current one… I know bigger and better things are just on the horizon.  The challenge I always struggle with in gaming is that I have more friends than I can ever possibly play with at the same time… but I always try and juggle this as best I can.  I am certain that as we enter the new game I will figure out a way to balance playing with my awesome friends in Tequila Mockingbird… and all of the new people who will be giving the Destiny franchise a fresh chance.

Cruel Grey Button

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I honestly don’t have a whole hell of a lot to talk about this morning.  The world has been crazy between me and my work and juggling managing four different initiatives…  and my wife and her normal back to school frantic rush.  In theory at least in my world I am hoping that in the near future one of those initiatives wraps up and I can at least drop one team from my radar temporarily.  On the school front tomorrow is the first day back with kids, but my wife has been in “back to normal” mode since Monday.  The new normal however is extra stressful this year because there were some fairly severe last minute changes.  I know I have talked in the deep past on this blog about the forensics class she tag team teaches with a science teacher.  On Monday, the first day teachers reported back… that other teacher that she relies on…  decided to quit.  This of course throws everything into a state of immediate turmoil because moment now is about preparing to have a completely different teacher doing the co-teach thing with her.  Thankfully someone she is pretty close with ended up getting the position, but yesterday abruptly turned into a full day of helping this other teacher move classrooms and set up.  Today in theory is going to be about trying to discuss what the hell they are going to do…  when the kids arrive tomorrow.

The only thing I really have to talk about is the fact that yesterday I fired up the Battle.net launcher… and got super excited when I noticed that they have added a new Activision section to the side bar of games.  This is starting to feel super real at this point and I now have a greyed out install button that should in theory become available at some point before the August 29th beta date.  It has been a really long time since I longed for access to a beta… but holy shit do I wish I could play Destiny 2 right now.  I mean don’t get me wrong I am loving my rediscovery of Guild Wars 2…  but I need some Destiny in my life.  The problem that I keep running into each time I boot up Destiny 1 is the fact that it feels like I am playing a game that is ultimately going away.  I mean I fully expect that the game will remain active for a period of time after the launch of Destiny 2…  but it feels like I am not really devoting time to anything meaningful.  I have a hard time getting excited about the concept of completing the achievement books.  The fact that they tied gear and rewards to them this time made it a little bit better, but it still feels like I am spending my limited time playing what is ultimately a disposable experience.  I admit this is a little ironic considering that I wish I could be playing Destiny 2 beta which is in itself a completely 100% disposable experience.

I am really excited about the prospects of playing the game on the PC and having access to my battle.net friends list.  I am really hoping that cross chat with other blizzard games is a thing that exists and that I can keep tabs on my WoW playing friends while I am off shooting Cabal for shiny loots.  I do however need to have a bit of a “come to jesus” with my friends list and prune it in preparation of the launch.  Not saying that there are people from my past that I really am happy that are in my past…  but also not saying that.  I am sure there are a handful of those people still hanging out somewhere in the bowels of my battle.net friends list.  I am also really hoping that with the launch of Destiny they introduce some sort of appear offline mode that they have been talking about.  There are nights when I just cannot deal with other human beings.  Counter intuitively the feature that I want the most from BNet is cross server chat channels.  My social connections have evolved to this state where I sort of have a guild without actually having a game.  What I mean by that is I have this stable group of people that I interact with on a daily basis… and slacks and discords that have become the new “guild chat” as it were…  but that it isn’t necessarily completely encompassed by a single game.  Having a social channel that spanned World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, Starcraft 2, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, Overwatch, Starcraft Remake and now Destiny 2…  would be pretty great.  Sure one on one conversation is a thing that exists across game but it would be cool to have that extended guild chat feel to it.

Minuet 42

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A few days ago I said I had more or less “beat” the Destiny 2 beta in part because there is so little to actually do in it.  That said for whatever reason I keep returning and playing.  Since writing my initial post I have done the strike several times and spend a bit more time in the Crucible.  Some of my initial comments about not really liking the 4 vs 4 format and the small map sizes, is in part me likely just getting adjusted to changes and not really having a weapon load-out that I would have preferred.  Traditionally my crucible build has been an Auto Rifle in the primary slot… usually my extreme stability Haakon’s Hatchet or if I am feeling squirrely…  my Genesis Chain.  From there I generally have either a Shotgun in the secondary slot Invective or Party Crasher +1 or I go for one of my Fusion Rifles…  traditionally Saladin’s Vigil.  The heavy slot varies greatly because in truth… I am not really expecting to get heavy ammo in Crucible matches so I am not super concerned.  If I have an exotic slot available I go with Gjallarhorn and if not probably my Silvered Dread machine gun.  The problem with the Destiny 2 weapon loadouts is that on my preferred class… the Titan there was nothing that I could really replicate this feel with so I in part had to feel out what worked for me in the new scheme.

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What finally ended up feeling good and seeming usable is to run a Submachine Gun in my primary slot, namely The Showrunner seen above.  However in truth I was using this weapon much in the same way as I would have used a secondary in Destiny 1 only swapping to it at certain times.  For my main weapon I relied heavily on the Minuet Hand Cannon sitting in my energy weapon slot, because it had some significant stopping power and actually allowed me to win non-teamshot firefight engagements.  Where the sub machinegun was handy is any time that someone ran up on me, I could hang out just outside of melee range and grind them down with a rapid fire hail of bullets.  In theory I think this is more or less what folks who loved the sidearm used to do…  but I never could make sidearms work for me in this fashion.  As far as the heavy/power weapon slot…  once again I didn’t care too terribly much about this given that I was similarly not expecting to ever get ammunition for it…  so instead just relied on the grenade launcher in case I ever did.  I am by no means “good” at the new Crucible, but I managed to find a setup and style that worked for me and I managed to keep climbing higher in my efficiency number as the night went on.

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The thing that I find the most impressive about the Destiny 2 demo experience… is the fact that it is so damned short yet I kept returning day after day to keep experiencing it in any way that I could.  In part it has made me want to actually dig in and try and finish some of the book achievements that are sitting there unfinished, and bask in the glory of the Destiny 1 experience before it is gone.  All in all I am anxiously awaiting the release of this game and even more so the upcoming PC beta that we are getting at some point in August.  I have a lot of concerns relating to the PC version, namely how it is going to feel and how well it plays in my various systems.  I am really hoping that I can figure out a set of tweaks to get it to play with passable performance on my i7 Geforce 960m laptop.  I am not expecting the world and would be completely fine with running 720p on it…  pending that the performance is at a minimum 30 fps.  One moment of sadness last night however is that the left thumb stick on  beloved Hori FPS Plus controller started tearing.  I am seemingly particularly hard on left thumb sticks, and as Squirrel pointed out last night…  since it is not our aiming stick we are way less gentle with it.  I ordered a set of cheapo aftermarket thumb stick caps, hoping that maybe just maybe it will fit.  I tried one of the Kontrol Freaks PS4 caps that I had laying around and it kept popping off because the slightly smaller than normal size.  All in all though I am going to be really sad to see Destiny 2 beta ending tonight, but will be looking forward to actually getting to play  the game at launch.

 

Destiny 2 Beta Impressions

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Yesterday around noon was the official launch of Destiny 2 Beta on the PS4.  I personally got my hands on it around 6 pm after doing various things that needed to be done and taking my wife out to eat.  To call this a Beta however feels like a little bit of a misnomer because in truth we are getting out hands on essentially the same demo that was available to press at e3.  With that comes a greatly limited subset of options that you can take part in.  Functionally right now there are three things available to players:  The first story mission, the Inverted Spire strike, and one play mode of the crucible.  I didn’t get a ton of screenshots because I was actively playing, but I did decide to stream and ultimately record me in game from the moment I started up Destiny 2 to the moment I logged out feeling like I had “beat” the demo.  If you are really curious you can check out my Mixer VOD that runs for a little over an hour.  I opted to go for a silent stream because I was largely just recording this for my own benefit.

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This game is going to catch so much flak for being “Destiny 1.5” and I can see that.  In every meaningful way this is Destiny.  The characters perform as smoothly as the original, and the gunplay feels just as good.  Those who played a significant amount of time with the first game…  might have a little bit of an adjustment period because there are subtle differences everywhere.  This is not simply a “HD Remaster” of the original game… but you can feel that it is in fact a brand new game that has tried extremely hard to capture everything that was great about the first one.  The titan jump feels slightly different, and everything from the pulse rifle to the hand canon are recognizable…  but feel different enough to know at a base level that you are playing something different.  The first story mission is excellent and does an amazing job of providing you a feel for the game and its play… as well as giving you a rich narrative ride through parts of the tower you have never seen before.  It takes everything that was learned through the Taken King and Rise of Iron and distills it down into the purest form.  You are killing Cabal but you are doing it with a constant purpose of trying to save those you can…  with enough nostalgic elements to make it feel like your home is falling apart…  not just some random structure being blown to pieces.  The mission also does a great job of weaving in single player and multi player elements…  with the central section being a sort of defend the tower mode as you and lots of other players fight back against the Cabal along side Zavala.  That is another huge part of this experience…  you are interacting with characters that you already know like Zavala, Cayde-6 and Ikora Rey.  They have personality and treat you in a manner befitting someone who has been leading all of these strike missions for all of these years.  Hell you even get some interesting interactions with Lord Shax and Amanda Holliday.

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The Strike is similarly awesome, and I can see myself running it over and over as part of the strike list.  There were a few annoying jumping puzzle style elements…  namely that giant grinder that we have seen multiple times in trailers and such.  You find yourself trying to navigate through an area while avoiding the spinning wheels of doom.  There is a similar mechanic in the first story mission where you have to avoid certain death while destroying objectives, and made me question my choice of the control jump instead of the height jump.  The only weirdness about all of this is… it felt like grenade and super both charged super slow.  Maybe I am just used to running around with my Armamentarium and rocking two grenade charges…  but it always felt like when I needed a grenade the most it was still on cooldown.  The super when available however was glorious.  Last night I focused on the Sentinel Titan… and I got to run around bashing things with my shield.  I never figured out how to throw it…  but doing the equivalent of the old striker titan shoulder charge with a void shield was amazingly fun.  While sunbreaker is supposedly back for Destiny 2… I can absolutely see me maining Sentinel.  The thing that surprised me the most is the fact that I didn’t really seem to use the portable shield capability that often.  It was useful for setting up essentially a gun nest, but for the most part I just ducked in and out of cover like I always did.

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The only negative of the night was the crucible.  I am just not a fan of the changes they made.  For starters they have reduced the number of people in standard crucible matches from 6 vs 6 to 4 vs 4.  As a result they have created a series of much smaller maps with much tighter choke points.  What this does is make it feel much more frenetic in a style of game-play that I equate with Call of Duty.  Crucible always felt like a thinking mans game… where it was as much about how you moved and when you chose to fire or not fire…  rather than just charging forward into the fray every few seconds.  It could be my experiences were deeply colored by the fact that in both occasions I ended up on a team of randoms fighting against a team of people sharing the same clan tag.  Functionally all I know is that the changes did not feel as good as the original crucible does, and as a very casual player of the crucible it is not really something I look forward to participating in.  Which leads us to the other problem of the night…  I am more or less a Patrol player.  If you believe Destiny Tracker I spend something like 70% of my time playing Patrol missions where I wander around aimlessly and kill things in the open world.  As such with this demo “my Destiny” was not open for business yet and after doing the story mission, the strike, and a few round of crucible I considered myself largely done for the night.  That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy myself… it just felt like a very shallow experience without the open world content and without character progression.  I am sure I will boot it up a few more times…  but this did nothing to really satiate my desire for the actual game.