Deforestation

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So Much Change

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So one of the things you will pick up on if you have read my blog for terribly long, is that I don’t exactly handle change well.  I can do pretty well with juggling new information or new ideas… but when it comes to fundamental changes in my home or work lives it stresses me the hell out.  Basically I need a place of stability somewhere, and right now that is very much not home.  There has been this sequence of changes that are all positive, but all worrisome for me personally.  The worst of it was during the renovation work on the house, namely the fact that it drug on as long as it did and that there were constantly other people inhabiting my space.  Last night however…  it reached a new point when I got home from work.  We’ve never done much of anything with our backyard, and this year we are trying to change that.  We set up the patio off the new door to our bedroom, changed out the deck boxes, got a bunch of new chairs…  and even a wind chime (something I have always wanted) all in the name of making the backyard space more usable.  I don’t have a great “before” picture of my back yard, but I will be using one from this winter as a point of reference.  You see the trees that we have around our back deck?  Those are apparently not trees at all, but are intended to be a hedge.  The hedge in the photo is supposed to be about a foot and a half or so tall in front of the other hedge that is now a tree.  As a result of this we talked to a friend who does landscaping with the hope that he could sort things out for us and get things back under control.

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The problem is I was not exactly prepared for the reality of what that meant.  There is what looks like the limbs of an entire forest dotting the backyard, and this panoramic shot was taken before they were actually finished.  They have since taken out the bulk of the second tree and cut it back hoping that it will start greening up again in a more manageable fashion.  Neither my wife or I were really prepared for the fact that we went from having lots of green blocking the view of the green belt behind our house and the neighborhood across the way… to having almost zero.  I have faith that things will grow back and the end result will be much better…  but man does it look like shit right now.  I guess this is what happens when plants are allowed to grow unchecked for twenty years.  At some point I guess I need to learn how to trim things like I probably should have been all this time.  I grew up in a house without any real landscaping so I guess I just assume that things needed to be left alone and allowed to do whatever they hell they wanted to.  This just adds one more stresser to the pile that seems to be growing.  On a positive note that garage is awesome again, and I have been going out each night to work out in our gym…  that we have not really had access to for a decade it feels.  I even went out quickly for a bit after the raid last night to work out some of the excess post raid energy, which was kinda awesome.

War Priest Challenge

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Last night was also my second time attending the Axioma Clan Rookie Raid night.  I have to admit I have been looking forward to this since going to the last one on the previous Tuesday.  While I have been enjoying The Division, there will always be a special place in my heart for Destiny and I have been logging in and playing for a bit pretty much every day.  I have to admit part of this has been easy access on my laptop while downstairs using Twisted’s Remote Play app.  The only problem that I have so far is the fact that there is no way to really chat over PSN party chat, which means that while I can do random strikes with strangers… I can’t really group up with friends reliably.  Otherwise the connectivity is good enough that I could in theory use it all of the time.  Now I doubt I would want to trust it for something like the Kings Fall raid when timing is extremely tight on things like the jumping puzzles.  Speaking of that I failed considerably less this week… at least on the ships.  On the annoying bit where the giant penis shaped pistons push you off of the wall…  I think I actually did worse but I am choking that up to the fact that I am normally in bed by the time we got to that area.  The raid itself started an hour and a half later than the previous week, which was a bit of a thing… given that I get up at 5:30 each morning, and my friend Squirrel had to get up at 4.

Regardless I had a great time last night, and I felt like more of a useful member of the team.  I still failed quite a bit at various things… like for example on the Daughters fight I ended up getting torn, which meant I had to do the jumping puzzle.  The only problem there being that I had never done the jumping puzzle before.  I sadly failed and wiped the raid, but I feel like I could probably do better next time.  Of all of the dumbass things that I did the cake is the fact that apparently in the two years I have been playing this game… I never realized that a Titan could cancel their jump by pressing x in midair allowing you to pretty much drop straight down at will.  All of this time I have been doing jumping puzzles by trying to time just the perfect amount of momentum to carry me over a gap and still be able to land safely on the other side.  Once I was told this…  and actually Grokked what people were saying…  the jumping puzzles seemed way easier.  Once again the loot gods were favorable, because I managed to pick up a bunch more items… the highlight of which is probably a 310 raid sniper rifle.  I also managed to pick up a 308 fusion rifle, but given that I have Telesto… and I don’t really even like fusion rifles I will probably eat it to power up another sniper rifle.  A couple of the other items will likely get fed to my hunter or warlock to help them get their light up.  Now that I can hit 304 light, I need to apparently farm all of the strikes in the hopes of getting Exotics that should have a fairly decent chance of dropping at 310, that I can then turn around and use to power up my other gear.

 

 

 

Sleeper Awakens

Real World Rifts

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Yesterday I took the day off to manage getting a dumpster delivered.  This was one of those odd situations where they would not really give us a time of day for it to be delivered, but instead wanted to call on their way.  As a result I felt like I was pretty much in a holding pattern until that event happened, largely because we wanted it dropped off in the yard… not in the drive way.  So I treated yesterday like a normal work day, except instead of shuffling off to work after posting a blog post…  I booted up and played The Division for a bit.  I had been months since I attempted to stream anything, and I was also kicking the tires of the new OBS Studio…  which seems to obfuscate a bunch of the settings.  So the first few minutes of the stream were apparently a slide show narrated by my voice.  After that I fiddled with some settings until I finally landed on a combination of levers that seemed to produce a nice watchable streaming experience.  The thing about The Division is that I feel like I am constantly doing something… even if it is not the thing I intended.  One of the aspects of Rift that I loved was the fact that the world was constantly spawning rifts and invasions that I had to deal with.  It felt new and fresh…  up until the point that it didn’t anymore.  The happenings in The Division are varied enough that I hope they remain fresh, but I worry that there will be a time where I start avoiding the little things going on around me… just so I can complete the thing I am actually trying to focus on.

The other potential issue due to the dynamic interactions is that most of the time I feel like I am not actually making any progress.  I might set off in search of this or that… and get distracted by six things that happen along the way.  For example last night I was trying to do one of those missing agent location quests, where you pick up on their trail and follow them to what unfortunately usually ends up being a log book.  While on the final step of one of those chains… I also got the shout over the radio that looters were attacking a supply drop.  Instead of going over and defending I tried so hard to keep following the trail of clues.  All the while I was actually feeling like a horrible person for not helping those NPCs.  The game makes me feel the weight of my decisions in a way that most games don’t, and I think it is because this game bridges the uncanny valley gap so damned well.  The world I am wandering around feels so real to me…  that I could step out of the screen and into the real Manhattan and not really notice the difference.  It also makes me wonder how amazing a game like City of Heroes would have been… if it were rendered with this level of detail.  Right now I am feeling so completely behind in everything I am doing, but I am currently knocking on the door of level 10, whereas lots of other folks are hitting the level cap.  I am not really going to worry about grinding my way up, because really…  I don’t want to burn out on this title.

Completing Quests

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The strange thing about yesterday was that I had the entire day to play The Division, but instead I largely focused on working on stuff in Destiny.  I have been a slacker when it comes to completing any of the end game content, especially if it requires tedium.  For example one of the big goals is collecting Calcified Fragments, and they are hidden damned near everywhere on the Dreadnaught.  Most of them can be obtained “in the open” while doing patrol missions, but a handful of them are only exposed during strikes or story missions.  Even others involve doing events like Skyburners Deployment Code or Wormsinger Rune.  The other night while doing the Kings Fall raid, the nice folks made sure that I got all of my fragments from there, which took a big obstacle out of the way.  There is a long drawn out quest called “Hunger Pangs” that involves doing a bunch of silly stuff for Eris Morn.  Several of the steps are gated by the number of Calcified Fragments you happen to have collected at that point.  To do the final part of the quest you have to have found 45 of the 50 total fragments that currently exist in the game.  So yesterday during the day I managed to solo most of the quest line, including a rather tough version of the Undying Mind strike.  I was however stuck on the final quest, which is a pretty insane version of the Phobos quest that starts the Taken King.  Thankfully Squirrel and Jex helped me out last night, and I now have a shiny new Touch of Malice which will come in handy during the raid.

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Since they were looking for something else to do… I coerced them into also helping me out with my Sleeper Stimulant quest.  I had been on the final stage of this quest since I believe last October, but didn’t have a ready group of people to talk into helping me with it… and had zero luck pugging it.  The quest requires you to run a Nightfall level version of the Saber strike, which is somewhat insane to survive given that you get bombarded by Fallen ships at the start.  I had always heard that if you could simply manage to make it through the first sequence… that the rest of the strike was really not that bad.  I agree at least in part, that is until you reach the final boss.  That encounter was absolutely insane…  but we managed to take it down pretty easily.  Then feeling our Wheaties turned around and attempted the exact same strike as the weekly Nightfall.  The combination of Match Game and Fresh Troops made it so much worse.  Towards the end we were ping ponging around the room trying to stay alive long enough to resurrect the next fire team member, usually only ending up getting wrecked ourselves in the process.  Through a bit of dumb luck and perseverance we managed to pull out the victory on our third attempt at the final encounter.  After that I was needing to log, because in truth I only really intended to do the Malice event but ended up staying upstairs on the PlayStation for like three hours.  Was a pretty great night and I feel better having knocked a couple of big goals off of my list in the game.

 

Division Thoughts

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Busy Week

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The last few days have been unexpectedly busy, which is at least a little unfortunate since The Division launched late Monday night/early Tuesday.  Work as always gets in the way of my fun, but even more than that there have been various activities that I needed to be coherent for.  On Tuesday I had a blast doing the Kings Fall raid in Destiny, but that also meant a night that I could not really devote much time to Division.  Last night I had the World of Warcraft raid, and we managed to duplicate our progress from the previous week… this time with fewer ringers.  Granted we still had ringers… just about half as many as we did the previous week so the progression felt more “real”.  Today I took off work because I am having to coordinate the delivery of a dumpster.  Then tonight, Friday night… and Saturday afternoon we will be cleaning out the garage which is our spring break project.  It is going to be awesome to reclaim that space because for the last decade it has been a space where we just threw anything that we wanted out of sight.  So there is an old dresser out there, a couple of benches… countless insanely large boxes that we didn’t want to haul to the recycling dumpster at that moment.  So in theory I think most of it will go really quickly.  The only major concern I have is that I also know there are various chemicals out there as well, and have no real clue what to do with those.

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All of this said I have still been trying to squeeze in as much Division as I possibly can during the week and have managed to hit level eight so far.  I’ve been loving the insane amount of clothing that I have managed to pick up while wandering around.  With all of the options I have cobbled together an outfit that feels uniquely me… in a way I have not experienced in a game since The Secret World.  The only problem is… the character models themselves are pretty limited.  See the glorious beard that I am wearing?  That beard is only available for a single face…  which seems insane considering that I might want to have a beard like that on any model.  A similar situation is the state of glasses in this game…  I ended up going with the round Lennon lenses because they were the only ones that I felt actually fit my face.  There were however zero options for actual glasses… like corrective style which I would have happily put on my character instead of permanent sunglasses…  even in the middle of the night like the above picture.  These frustrations however are relatively minor, and after not being able to get into the game on opening night…  I’ve played pretty reliably ever since.

Rewarding Exploration

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One of my favorite things in video games is to wander around unfettered by obligations and just explore the world.  This is my Bethesda games are such crack for me, because I can absolutely jump off the beaten path at any moment… and am generally rewarded for doing so.  One of my subtle frustrations of the beta was the fact that so many areas like the sewers and subway system seemed to have no real purpose.  In the live game however… these locations are chock full of interesting encounters.  On Tuesday night I was playing for a bit ahead of the Destiny raid, and popped into a sewer… largely because in beta these served as ways to get over to the next city block pretty easily.  However while down there I encountered a chest that notified me that I had discovered a gun runners cache or something of the sort.  When I opened it up, it had a very nice level 4 blue SMG that I have yet to be able to replace at level 8.  I feel similarly awesome when I wander through abandoned buildings and explore them looking for treasure, and this time around it is great that I am not constantly hitting walls that I cannot cross into other areas of town.  Sure there are absolutely some places where I really should not be yet due to my level…  but I like that the game lets me go there anyway.

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The problem with being so exploration based… is that I feel like I am getting absolutely nothing accomplished.  I can happily wander around the streets doing random encounters that I happen across for hours…  and then realize…  oh shit I really meant to be doing this or that objective.  I am slowly whittling down the objectives that I have open to me… and I think today I will work on some of the missions that involve rescuing this person or taking out that baddie.  I remember there being a whole slew of things around the Hudson camp that I did during beta that I probably want to go back and explore.  Granted I might be over level for them… but it should be fun in any case.  The big thing that I have to talk about this game is that while I kinda wish you had random encounters with other players…  after getting some grouping going I finally understand why that isn’t a thing.  When we were running around as a group the other night it was a VASTLY different experience to me wandering the streets solo.  With Ashgar and Tam, we were constantly running up against huge groups of mobs, and I have to say….  huge groups of cleaners are the absolute worst.  Those damned fire bombs that they throw out…  I guess I had gotten used to the looter smoke bombs not being that bad.  In any case I hope to do some more grouping over the next few nights, but at this point everyone is going to be massively out of my level range I fear.  I wonder how the game handles staggered level ranges…  I think a lot of the difficulty we had the other night was due to the fact that Ash and I were level 4, and Tam was level 8.  So I cannot imagine what it would be like with a larger disparity.  All in all however I am still enjoying myself and having a good time.

 

 

 

The King Fell

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The Ship Boss

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Since the launch of Destiny I have had a desire to do the raid content…  because that is the sort of thing I would do in any of the MMOs.  Unfortunately Destiny never really gained the sort of traction that I would have liked among my circle of friends.  Initially Tam and Ash and Kodra all played…  but petered out pretty quickly.  With the launch of The Taken King there was a bit of a resurgence, but similarly did not last terribly long.  Another friend that would have probably happily joined in raid time fun… plays on a completely different console.  I had gotten to the point where I kept considering trying to brute force a raid to happen by coaxing various friends who I know that play the game casually into joining me for madness.  Then out of the blue my good friend Squirrel almost strong arms me into joining the raid with his clan Axioma, which in truth I jumped at the opportunity.  Last night was that raid and I have to say I am hooked.  Firstly the group of folks I went in with are amazing, and super chill about newbie failures.  I cannot fathom how the first people to do this raid figured out some of the crap that you need to do.  I swear it took me a solid thirty minutes to get through the ship encounter, where you have to jump from one ship at the right time as another one is fading from underneath you.  All the while Wet was super supportive and coaxing me through the process, and while I felt horrible to taking so long to grasp the jumps…  it was kinda awesome that they were willing to let me keep attempting it.

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The entire night I was admittedly largely clueless and doing everything I could to listen to the directions and execute them to the best of my ability.  When playing with a new group of folks, there is always the strong desire to “not fail miserably”.  That said I still managed to cause us to wipe a few times, and regardless of the situation everyone was really relaxed and just kept plugging forward.  I have to say this has done more than anything to validate my decision to follow Squirrel and jump clans, because it seems like this really is an amazing group of folks.  I am just floored that I have gone from being a pre-raid super casual, to having defeated Oryx in a single night.  I fully expected the rookie night raid thing to be a much harder slog, but I am guessing we had more than enough ringers to make the entire process feel more manageable.  I would happily sign up for this every week, and while the loot is a huge draw…  I really enjoyed the process of doing the fights and want to see them keep going more smoothly.  My favorite of the fights was probably Golgoroth just because there is something special about taking down a jump sized Ogre.  We managed to do the “challenge” version of Oryx… which suddenly makes me wonder just what the challenge versions of the other bosses are.  I somewhat doubt that I will be able to attend the hard mode content, but I have to say normal mode was a freaking blast.

Shining Light

 

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I think the thing that I appreciate the most about the King’s Fall encounter is the way that even though I was a first timer… I was still forced to do “real” mechanics.  Sure the fact that everyone else was adept at the fights gave me significant more wiggle room, but I still had to do a job in the encounters.  Being “carried” is not nearly the thing that it is in other games.  For example when I got my Moose in World of Warcraft…  my friends in the Praetorian Guard straight up carried me to victory.  You could have completely removed my warm body from the equation and none of the fights would have gone any differently.  Last night it felt like I had a purpose and I had a role to play, and when I failed to complete my assigned task…  we wiped or at the very list struggled for a bit.  I think this is largely because of the small raid size of only having six players.  The bigger the raid the more padding, and just like in a ten player raid in WoW everyone has to be on point to succeed at a fight.  We apparently took roughly three hours to clear the entire raid, but I have to say that the time flew by because all of it was fresh and new and exciting.  I am sure the more you do this the less that will be the case, but for right now I am completely enamored with these encounters.

More amazing than pretty much anything however is the fact that I am finally off high center in this game and now have breached the 300 light barrier.  You have to understand that I have been struggling bit by bit to get over the 300 light barrier for roughly six months in this game.  Now admittedly that is not six months of constant play, but at very least I am spending a little bit of time on my titan every single week.  Honestly after having played this game for as long and as often as I have… I am not sure there really is a viable way to hit 300 light apart from the raid.  Above is a gallery of the items that I ended up snagging.  The only thing not shown is a 300 ghost shell, which I have subsequently passed on to my hunter since I had a better option already on my Titan.  The highlight of the evening however is the two weapon drops from Oryx.  I guess because we did the challenge mode we were guaranteed a weapon, and I just happened to roll well and get one from the other chest also.  Having both the raid Pulse Rifle and Auto Rifle would have honestly been the two weapons I would have chose had I been able to snag any of the ones available.  Those tend to be my two favorite weapon types in Destiny, and while I have heard that the Auto rifle is less than amazing…. I want to give it a shot for myself.  Basically over the next week I need to spend some time leveling all the new stuff that I managed to pick up.  It was one hell of a night, and I greatly thank the Axioma Clan folks for taking me with them.

Day of Destiny

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Axioma Clan

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This weekend largely was a weekend for playing Destiny, or at the very least this was the primary activity for Sunday.  The whole sequence of events started when my friend Squirrel mentioned that it was Black Spindle day, and that we needed to get that done.  Which itself is a continuation of a conversation I had yesterday with him and several members of his clan.  I mentioned it at the tail end of Saturday’s post, but one of the activities that I have really wanted to do over in Destiny is the Oryx raid.  One of the challenges seems to be that you get stuck trying to get to 300 light level without access to the much higher light level raid items.  For what feels like six months I have been hovering around 298 light, with no amount of activity seeming to push me over that barrier.  As a result when Squirrel invited me to partake of a Tuesday night “newbie” raid for King’s Fall I jumped at the chance.  Granted Tuesday night is also the prime night for playing The Division since it launches what I believe is essentially midnight EST tonight.  That said I am more than happy to blow off that first night of a new game to be able to do the thing that I have been really wanting to do in Destiny.  It had gotten to the point where I was going to try and twist a bunch of arms to try and get them to build a raid team to at the very least let me see the content.  The prospect of being able to attend a more regular thing however…  seems pretty great.  It probably won’t be something I can do every week, but this week works out nicely.

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So we zoom forward to yesterday, and I get the message that it is Black Spindle day.  Now when I got this message it was like 8 in the morning and I was still having to wrap up the post production stuff for AggroChat, and then knock out my own Aggronaut blog post.  Sadly by the time I finished everything…  the Australian leader of the clan had gone to bed, and we were left with the normal non-primetime Sunday morning group of players.  That did not stop Squirrel and I from running a Nightfall and a ton of Heroics back to back.  From all of those strikes I managed to pick up a couple of decent exotics, and a few blues that are worthy of feeding into other things.  I picked up Claws of Ahamkara for the Warlock, which gives me an extra melee attack which is always amazing.  For the titan I picked up a new favorite chest piece, the Armamentarium which gives me an extra grenade.  Finally I picked up the above weapon, the Thunderlord which fills a hole in my itemization that I had been looking for.  I snagged Truth the rocket launcher and am extremely happy with it, but I had been wanting an Exotic Heavy Machine Gun…  and bam I manage to pick one up today.  Now I just need to go through the frustration of doing crucible with a sword to finish getting my exotic sword there.

The Spindle Hunt

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The problem with yesterday is that I had a fixed time frame that I could do things in.  I ultimately needed to be downstairs by 8 pm and so I could wrap some things up, and preferably be in bed at a decent hour.  That gave me all day yesterday, but unfortunately for most of the time we were online we lacked a viable third.  I am so thankful to Squirrel for the constant attempt to stir the chat and try and find someone.  You might have noticed that among other things this weekend you will see that I now have the “Axioma” tag under my name, so that is something that happened as well.  During all of my running around I also managed to get another level of Dead Orbit faction which rewarded me the sweet ship that you can see in the above image.  Both of us ended up needing to take breaks every few hours, to go off and do a small bit of adulting here and there.  The funny thing is… it is amazing how fast two hours can just evaporate when you are chain running heroics.  It doesn’t seem like each of them takes that long, but when you stack a bunch of them end to end it really adds up.  Finally around 5:30 we managed to get a spindle group together, which meant I needed to quickly learn the role of the Defender Titan on the fight.  Please note… while I have a Defender spec, I don’t often play in it other than PVP… and even then its just for the Helm of Saint-14 procs that stun people in my bubbles.  I am neither proficient or even effective as one most of the time…  so I had a lot of ground to catch up.

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We grabbed another Axioma member Jex who was also awesome in helping me sort out what I should be doing.  For those who don’t understand the Black Spindle, it is an exotic sniper rifle that comes from the end of a daily heroic mission.  The gotcha is that you have to do some stuff that is not intended to actually get it, and it is hands down the roughest thing I have done in this game so far.  Essentially at the end of the normal mission you have to rush out of the final chamber and down a series of corridors, where you can’t really fight anything…  but instead just need to keep moving forward and avoiding taking as much damage as you can.  I believe there is some sort of time limit that you are under during that part, and you have to reach another area before it is considered safe and you can ease up a bit.  You have essentially moved into the area where another strike takes place… and from there you proceed as normal for a few rooms until finally you take a detour down the path that would normally lead to the Ketch in the Shadow Thief strike.  Now is where the difficult part begins… you take the elevator up into the Ketch and when you enter the first room with mobs, a timer starts.  You have ten minutes to get to the end of the strike, take down the boss and destroy all of the taken.  We were so damned close… and on my last attempt we literally had TWO mobs up when the timer ran out.  There are a bunch of things that I can do to help… namely get my damned exotic sword so that the next time this is available it will be a little easier.  Similarly I hope I pick up some gear in the raid on Tuesday so that my overall light level will be higher.  I was frustrated that I felt like given another attempt or two…  we would have gotten it.  However I had pretty much all day to make attempts and simply ran out of time before I needed to pop off the PS4.  There will always be a next time.

 

Why Division Wins

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Hyperbole Away

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This is going to be a needlessly inflammatory blog post, or at the very least the title is.  Since The Division was announced back in E3 2013, there has been an immediate and constant comparison between it and Destiny.  This speaks more to the problem of the games industry and games media being unable to talk about games without comparing them to something else that at least on the surface looks like it.  Hell I am super guilty of this myself, because I am constantly tying games back to World of Warcraft or League of Legends or any of the other “progenitor” games of certain functionalities and features.  If you have read my blog for very long you are going to know that I am a huge fan of Destiny, and that I have leaped so much praise upon Bungie for fixing the game in pretty much every possible area with the launch of The Taken King.  If you have also read my blog within the last few months you will know that I also enjoyed my time spent playing The Division in beta.  Now having played both games…  I can tell you that they are very different experiences.  That said however… if media continues to link these games then I will too for the purpose of this article.

Let’s Talk Destiny

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The problem is that we the gamers and we the enthusiast media always want to declare a winner at something.  So this morning I am going to talk about The Division and Destiny and go into why which game will do better.  First however I am going to talk about Destiny for a bit and delve into what makes that game enjoyable for me personally.  It is a member of an imagined genre that people seem to be calling the “Loot Shooter” which I guess includes the Borderlands family or pretty much anything where you pick up Diablo style loot while going through the world?  The coining of this genre seems completely nonsensical but I will go with it for the time being.  The important part of that statement is “Shooter” because Destiny at its very core is a shooter.  It’s mechanics include the same sort of run and gun game play that we have experienced since Doom.  This time however there is a RPG layer lumped onto it as you level your character, learn new abilities and acquire loot upgrades that strengthen your damage and survival.  So if I were going to describe the game to someone else… I would do so as a Shooter with RPG elements… and lives in the vague MMOFPS genre.

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As much as I love this game… I have had to realize that it is not for everyone.  Regardless of how cool I think it is, or how great the moment to moment game play feels…  if you are not a fan of shooters you will not be a fan of Destiny.  More so than that it requires you to have a certain level of reactive game play to be able to function in it.  Mobs come rushing at you and you need to be able to run and dodge and focus in on things while moving.  It is a game that rewards precision shots, which means not only focusing in on the target but drawing a bead on whatever weak spot that unit has.  Essentially if you do not have a certain level of FPS skills going into the game… or are at least familiar with that sort of movement…  you are probably going to struggle and find it a generally “un-fun” experience.  Sure you can get better, and the patrol zones are a great low pressure way of wandering around and killing things to hone those skills.  However if you have a mental block against shooters then Destiny is not going to be the game for you.

Let’s Talk Division

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I admit when I first fired up The Division I was expecting the same sort of game experience that I had playing Destiny.  I expected to dodge and weave in and out of cover and charge gun nest to take out the bad guys.  This sort of game play… will absolutely get you killed, and it did me quickly.  I had to adjust to playing a cover based shooter and taking my time…  lining up my shots, and forcing the mobs to come to me rather than charging up on them.  Basically I had to slow down my pace and take the game at much more tactical level… and once I made the adjustment I loved it.  So while I called Destiny a Shooter with RPG elements….  The Division is the polar opposite… a RPG with Shooter elements.  The core of the game play reminds me at times of doing missions in Mass Effect 2 and 3, where you had to draw out the enemies from cover and then strike at the right moment for the largest effect.  You can use things like grenades to draw the bad guys out into the open, or my personal favorite the Riot shield which allows me to get up close and personal with moving cover.

Tom Clancy's The Division™ Beta_20160201102502

My fear however is that for many people they still see this game in the same broad genre as Call of Duty, when in truth it requires a completely different set of skills.  Sure you are still aiming down the sight of a weapon and drawing a bead on mobs with a target reticle, but the pace is slowed down to the point where you can call your shots much easier and make them far more effective.  There is still game play that rewards movement and a little bit of run and gun, but the vast majority is RPG Shooter where you wait things out from the safety of cover.  This also leads itself to creating new kinds of team based game play where someone can really hang back and buff the team, instead of being in the front line vanguard.  Essentially I feel like there is more room for different types of game play in Division, which will come in later as I wrap up my comments in the below section.  For the longest time I thought the lack of “space guns” would be a nail in the coffin for me…  but really the amount of customizing that I could do with the weapon attachments kept me happy and engaged even though the weapons themselves were “normal” and didn’t shoot pulses of plasma or anything cool like that.

Secrets of Success

So now comes the time where I start to wrap things up… and I am trying to set aside the fanboy in me for both of these games.  Thing is while the launch of Division is impending and I plan on playing the hell out of it… there is always going to be room in my life for Destiny.  The game play there just feels so damned good, and my ability to drop in for a few minutes and feel like I did something…  is a huge bonus for me.  Especially now that I have the ability to remote play to my laptop, I can pop in and do some bounties any time the mood hits me.  However when talking about the success of a game I realize I am not exactly the Bellwether…  pun intended.  If World of Warcraft has shown us anything, the game that has the most modes of play… and that serves the most different kinds of players tends to win in the end.  This is why I declared in my super hyperbolic title that “Division Wins”.  Destiny is an amazing shooter, but at the end of the day it requires you to also be pretty good at playing said shooters to really reach the point where things feel enjoyable.  The controls are so great, but you have to have played a lot of shitty shooters to really be able to appreciate them.

Division on the other hand really appeals to both the shooter players, but also the RPG players that are used to a much slower pace.  I feel like anyone who has played Mass Effect 2/3 or even someone with roots in a game like Knights of the Old Republic might feel just fine playing this game.  The fundamentals are the same… find a place of cover and attack from it until you whittle down the numbers of whatever is attacking you.  There is also a heavy exploration aspect to this game that would appeal to folks that enjoy the trappings of a Dragon Age game, or someone who loves the Fallout and Elder Scrolls style of open world games.  There is so much loot off the beaten path that I spent hours just wandering back alleyways and delving abandoned buildings.  What I am painting as a picture as a picture here is that there is a broad range of types of players that I think would enjoy The Division experience, and that is not a statement I can really say for Destiny.  You either like really tight shooters or you don’t and no amount of RPG aspect to the game is going to keep you there if you cannot stand run and gun.  Ultimately I think Division will be a larger success because they are ultimately targeting several different potential audiences.  In the meantime I am just hyped and ready to start…. but also hyped for Destiny because it seems like I might just have an in for a raid group!

Iron Banner

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Modem Death Cry

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Better than Xur

Last night was a bit of a strange night in that I once again flipped between games like mad.  I started off in doing my daily love rocket frustration grind… and once again I have nothing to show for it.  Then I popped into Dragon Age Inquisition for a bit, but I am having a hard time remembering just what the hell I was doing when I last played.  So I wandered around a bit aimlessly and almost accidentally completed a quest.  Finally at the end of the session I realized that I apparently have one of those major quests waiting in the queue where I go off to seal some breach somewhere… and have apparently been just avoiding completing it each time I have played lately.  Once again I logged out sufficiently avoiding it, but at some point over the weekend I really need to finish it so that hopefully I can get back on stable ground once more with this game.  Throughout all of this my wife and I were trying to catch up on iZombie because at this point we are about five episodes behind.  It was around this point when the hulu stream stopped and I started having some issues staying connected to the network.  I get upstairs and once again my modem is insanely hot, and my internet connection that normally tests out around 200 Mbps is testing 5 Mbps.  I unplugged everything and did the “throw it in the fridge for a few minutes to cool it down” trick once more.

When I finally got everything back up and running… I decided to just hang out upstairs and play some Destiny.  So I set forth on a sequence of events that wound up keeping me awake until midnight.  Destiny is still that game that I can just play happily without much forethought.  Since I had not done so in awhile I opted to do a heroic, and I have to say… it was pretty miserable.  For whatever reason I almost always get the restorative mind when it comes to heroics….  which is essentially the destiny equivalent of the Oculus.  No one that I know of likes it…  because for starters it is a huge mission and involves the damned “move the orb” mechanic to keep pushing forward.  Additionally there is a segment with a bunch of Vex Cyclops that are just annoying to deal with.  Finally you have this horrible segment at the end, where you have to keep running the ball while trying to avoid the beam of death from the restorative mind… and at the same time avoiding waves of goblins and hobgoblins that spawn in.  This is pretty easy to deal with in normal, but in heroic the stupid beam of death is quite literally that.  I made it though and ended up with a few purples…. that wound up being disenchant fodder.  I continued running 36 strikes from that point on until I finally got an Exotic to drop…  which is ironically Truth, the weapon Xur is selling this week… but in a much better 290 version.

Player Versus

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I Want a Strike on This Map

It is round about here that my night starts to get a little strange.  I don’t hate the crucible but it is one of those activities that I never actually participate in.  Similarly I have never done Iron Banner or Trials of Osiris…  and I completely missed doing any of the Crimson Doubles.  Essentially I am a no show for the player versus player activities, and I have no clue why… but on a whim last night I decided to start doing Iron Banner.  Firstly I absolutely expected to be horrible, since Iron Banner is in theory worse for new players than Crucible.  In the Crucible all players are scaled down gear wise to a happy medium allowing all players of all levels and gearings to be viable and on somewhat even ground.  Iron Banner on the other hand does not scale the players down…  and my lackluster 298 ass is nothing compared to the 330 folks that are running around in the zone.  The funny thing is however that I seemed to do mostly okay.  Sure there were occasions where I just got wrecked from out of nowhere, but there were lots of other occasions where I gunned down my target and even so much managed to get a three streak of kills before finally getting wrecked in return.

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Actually Won Some Matches

I think what makes this feel more enjoyable than a lot of the player versus player combat I have experiences is that it quite literally feels like there is no negative.  You play a match, you shoot some people, and at the end of it there is a chance of loot.  There are no repair bills, there are no lasting consequences… and even when you die you pretty much instantly respawn.  This feels more like the old school Doom deathmatch gameplay that I originally cut my teeth on.  Maybe I have shunned PVP all of this time without good reason.  Sure I rarely broke 1.0 KDR but as the night went on I got significantly better.  I even managed to pull a legendary from the place, and am pretty close to ranking up with the Iron Banner.  I have to say I am shocked at just how much I enjoyed myself, and in truth I really need to do more crucible as a result.  All of this kinda makes me look forward to the Dark Zone in The Division, because hopefully I can get a team together and we can roll around as a group exploring.  Maybe I am not as carebear as I always thought I was.

 

 

PS4 Remote Play

Strange Days

ASUS-ROG-GL551JW-DS74Yesterday was an extremely strange day, because an event happened that was largely unexpected.  As I have talked about over the last several months, my laptop is definitely seeing its age.  At the time I got it, it was an amazing power house of gaming with dual GT 650m video cards…  that could pretty much run whatever I happened to throw at it.  The problem is the laptop is from 2012, and in that time a lot of stuff has changed and we have gone through three generations of video cards.  So long as games were largely based on the PS3/Xbox 360 architecture everything was peachy, but as games dropped support for that generation and started to focus on the PS4/Xbox One it began to struggle.  The first game I can remember that it flat out would not run in a way that I could stand to play it… was Dragon Age: Inquisition which is shockingly taxing on a video card… especially one of this age.  Then came Fallout 4… and a long string of games that I had to run at 720p with greatly stripped down resolution options to get them to run at all.  So since before Christmas I had been watching the local Craigslist to see if there were any options out on the market that could be snatched up on the cheap.  I have a mixed past when it comes to Craigslist, because I have been able to get some insane deals like a Playstation 4 in early 2014 for only $200.  I have also gotten insane run around that seemed to last for weeks over a couple of laptops that the other party simply flaked out on.

Still I was not in dire straights and part of me was wanting to wait to see what the next generation of Nvidia cards looked like before purchasing a brand new laptop…  which seemed to be the direction I was heading towards.  Then over the weekend I actually saw something good on Craigslist, which surprised me in the midst of all of the over priced machines… and laptops that predate my current one.  Someone was selling a Asus Republic of Gamers laptop with an Intel Core i7-4720HQ processor, 16 GB of Ram, a Nvidia Geforce GTX 960m video card, with 1TB data drive and a 128GB SSD.  At first I apparently texted the wrong phone number, as I missed a zero in a sequence of four zeroes in a row.  However after texting the right address the guy responded pretty quickly.  I asked the standard questions… like does it have any issues, why are you getting rid of it, etc… and then started making offers.  Miraculously I apparently started off the bargaining in the right place, because I was able to talk him down to $600 which is a significant deal for that laptop.  So last night I spent the ever so fun game of starting to install everything I “need” to be happy with a laptop, but I have to say anytime I upgrade like this there is a little bit of sadness too.  I develop a personal relationship with my computers… and I guess part of me feels a little bad about kicking one to the curb to spend time with a newer model.  I know that is a strange sequence of thought…  but I can’t help but feel a little sad that I am moving on.

Remote Play

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Screenshot taken with Fraps while Streaming from PS4

One of the great promises of the Playstation 4 was the ability to remotely play the system from a Vita, Android device, or the Playstation TV set top box.  For the most part this works… but with certain constraints.  The Vita appears to do an amazing job of remote play, given its limited real estate and the slightly wonky control scheme.  However the Playstation TV set top box has been nothing but a disappointment.  There are threads all over the place talking about how to somehow get it to perform well, but most of these involve having a hard Ethernet connection back to the same router that the Playstation 4 resides connected to.  The problem here is… the entire idea of having it is to be able to extend the reach of your PS4 to another television.  Basically for a long time I was looking for a way to play my PS4 somewhere other than sitting up in my office, where I have it for the purpose of recording gameplay footage.  Awhile back I read about an unofficial side project that extended Remote Play to the PC, but never actually got around to checking it out.  The software is currently in active alpha development, but from what I was reading online it seemed like it actually worked well.  The author charges $10 for access to the alpha client… which is the only thing that had kept me from playing with it already.  So last night I took the plunge hoping that I could sit there and play PS4 as my laptop downloaded and installed various bits of software.

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Screenshot taken with Fraps while Streaming from PS4

Firstly I have to say… this thing is phenomenal.  There are a few hoops that you have to jump through like registering your PC with your Playstation 4 as a remote play device.  Additionally in order to get the native DualShock 4 to work I had to track down LibUSB which honestly took longer than any other part.  Once installed my DualShock 4 installed on my system and was recognized by the Remote Play application.  Unlike the native Remote Play options… this thing connects insanely fast to your PS4 and even the wake on lan functionality seems to work great.  The real test however is if I could manage to play Destiny on my PC without being frustrated by the control input lag.  Sure enough I managed to complete several duties and even hopped into some crucible where I managed to rack of some decent kill streaks…  all running remote over my wireless network.  Every now and then there is a slight bit of artifacting… and occasionally there might be an input hiccup… but in the grand scheme of things it works insanely well.  There are some constraints…  you are limited to a maximum of 720p running at 60 fps.  For the most part I ran the default of 720p at 30 fps and the experience was not necessarily perfect but good enough for me not to care about any imperfections.

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Screenshot taken with Fraps while Streaming from PS4

Where the really awesome bit comes in is the fact that the software author currently is working on mouse and keyboard controls, and for a little bit I actually tried playing Destiny with mouse and keyboard.  There is some work that still needs to be done… and the mouse just doesn’t quite move fast enough yet to make game play truly viable…  however since this software is actively being developed on I have a feeling that at some point soon… or with some configuration tweaking I will be able to sit on the sofa and play Destiny without the Dualshock 4.  Part of me wants to throw money at this guy to get him to add more features… because seriously this thing is working amazing.  Folks have already chimed in with “But Bel, Aren’t they adding official support?”.  This is true, but I have a feeling that Sony isn’t going to add in all of the features that this software is already starting to support, like the ability to pretty much play with ANY usb controller and not just the Dualshock 4.  I have a feeling that without any doubt Sony is not going to support Keyboard and Mouse emulation either.  In any case… it is $10 well spent even if you just want to play around with it.  Over the course of the night I played Destiny, Rayman Legends, and Farcry 4 all without issues.  Also of note… ALL of this was while I was downloading a game from steam, a game from origin, and copying files across my network… and STILL the remote play session refused to lag.

Cats and Wolves

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Cattes a Plenty

NekoAtsumeAt some point last year, lots of folks in my feed showed up with this Japanese app on their phones called Neko Atsume.  From what I can tell it roughly translates to Cat Collector, and it is one of those passive things that I tend to refer as a “maintenance game”.  The thing is….  I like cats.  In fact as I write this post I have one on either end of my desk sleeping on their blankets.  I for the most part avoided the game until recently when for some strange reason I decided to give it an install.  Firstly I’ve talked about my problems with mobile gaming in general.  I tend to install a game, play it a few times… and then never touch it again.  Largely my life is not exactly mobile friendly, and if I have access to games….  I am generally at home when I can use a more traditional gaming system.  This game however…  fits that realm of do something…  leave it sit for awhile… check back in on progress for a minute or two.  I’ve found myself popping it open while waiting on a meeting to start, and the jolt of happy kittehs doing stuff seems to help my mental state.

The concept is really simple.  You purchase cat toys, place them in your virtual yard… and the neighborhood cats will come visit you and leave you gifts if they enjoyed themselves.  The gifts come in the form of silver or gold fish… with the later also serving as the cash shop currency of the game.  As far as advancement… I have zero clue how that works.  I know I have seen screenshots of folks with much bigger yards, but I have no idea how that actually occurs yet.  The starter yard has a fixed number of mount points for items, and at any point you can pick the items up and replace them with other items from your inventory.  I have a pretty simple yard right now, but it seems to draw cats in pretty well.  You can play the game completely free and there is a conversion between silver fish and gold fish… but it is pretty painful.  You can get 10 Gold fish for every 250 Silver fish, which is doable because over the course of a few days I have earned over 250.  Right now it gives me tiny doses of happy especially when I pop over and my yard is completely full of cats doing adorable things.  I fully expect that within two weeks time I will have abandoned this mobile game just like I have abandoned so many others.

Slowly Leveling

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The other big project I have had over the last several days is working my way through the content in Destiny on my Xbox 360.  This has been a somewhat crazy side mission, and I have to say…  it has been interesting leveling from scratch for a second time.  There were a lot of things I struggled with in Destiny playing through it that very first time, and for the most part none of them are big deals this time.   I guess all of the time I have played on the Playstation 4 really has made me significantly better at the game, because swapping consoles has been a non-issue.  Sure the 360 controller feels a little strange, but I seem to be able to switch hit between it and the dualshock without much problem.  Admittedly I find the dualshock 4 significantly more comfortable, and if there was a way to make it work on the 360 I totally would.  I guess you might ask yourself why exactly am I leveling on a last generation console…  well I still have friends playing it.  I have been really damned impressed at just how well the game plays.  I mean admittedly it feels like someone smeared vasoline on the screen because everything feels a little fuzzy… given the lower resolution and with it lower texture detail.  However the moment to moment game play is exactly the same… and the weapons and movement all feels just as responsive.  I am sure at some point I will pick up an Xbox One, and at that point…  in theory my 360 characters get to transfer over so any work I am doing now I can carry forward into the next system.

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There are so many lessons that I have learned from playing through the first time.  This time around for example I am stockpiling every single blue engram drop that I happen to get.  The idea is that if I can wait to open any of them until level 40, I will be able to push up my light level quickly and get to a viable position to start doing content.  I am investing a lot of time right now in this platform, but the hope is that eventually it will be the sort of thing I only play when I have people to play with.  I still greatly prefer the Playstation 4 version, and those are the characters that I really care about.  In theory I could have spent my level 25 boost on my Titan and probably would have been done by now, but there is something fun about doing this legitimately again.  At this point I have beaten the main storyline of the original game, and darkness below.  I am also a fairly significant way through the House of Wolves storyline, but it was getting late last night and I did not really want to deal with the Vault of Glass mission, so that is where I will pick up next time I play.  I’ve reached level 25, which concerns me a bit… given that I have quite a bit to go before I can function very efficiently in the Taken King content.  I mean in theory I could already be doing that… but sub 35 some of those later missions are a pain in the ass.  Generally speaking on Destiny alts I push all the way to 40 before even really starting Taken King, so that I can burn through it easily.  Given I need leveling fuel… I will more than likely start Taken King as soon as I finish up with House of Wolves.  I guess I could do some Strike grinding, but I really really hate the Omnighoul strike, and that seems to be all I ever get in the level 20 range.

The Pathfinder

Flying Again

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Not being able to fly in Draenor has been an interesting experience, and mostly one that I did not fully realize what I was missing until recently.  I had got so used to NOT flying… that it always felt strange when I entered the old would and could suddenly take to the skies again.  I would lift off the ground in Stormwind or Ironforge and have this momentary pause where I couldn’t quite remember what I was supposed to do now that I was up above the world.  I can’t say I gnashed me teeth wanting flight, in fact I think it was probably a much more enjoyable experience for me because I was forced to be on the ground.  I made me actually learn the lay of the land in these zones, and it also got me using the flight point system again.  However over the last few weeks I have been working on the final requirements for Draenor Pathfinder, and being shuttled around by one of my friends on her rocket makes me realize just how much easier everything is with flight.  Why clear your way through a camp when you can just drop down on top of your objective?  But it also has made me realize exactly why they disabled in the first place.  Flight is overpowered when it comes to questing, and there is nothing more frustrating than working your way to a treasure chest in Tanaan only to have someone swoop in from above to snatch it from you before you can get to it.  When I was wrapping up the last bits of faction yesterday I had this happen three times in the course of a ten minute period.

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I honestly don’t so much  care about flight for my max level characters, but instead for my characters that I have yet to level further.  This means that I can pretty much chain quest my way to 100 by doing ONLY the objectives, and while this means I will be skipping a bunch of content… it is also content I have seen several times.  The biggest boon to me is that it will make collecting treasures so much easier, especially the ones that involve a jumping puzzle.  The negative is…  that I will no longer be cycling through my collection of ground mounts, but in the grand scheme I think I will live.  I realize this is months late, but it is still exciting to me to be able to return to the skies.  While Draenor Pathfinder was kind of a pain in the ass….  I got lucky and managed to get several medallions from the current Christmas event that helped me leapfrog 1000 faction at a time.  The problem is…. now that I am done with this achievement I am not really sure what to do with myself.  I could either start pushing the rest of my alliance characters from 90ish to 100….  or I could return to working on my Orc Warlock to hopefully have a second 100 to play with Horde side.  In any case… I topped a big goal off of my list and am pretty happy.

Last Gen Destiny

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Over the week I have had a friend of mine talking about picking up Destiny now that he realized you could get it for the Xbox 360.  I myself have considered picking it up on that console for awhile, especially since I feel bad that my 360 doesn’t see much love.  I had been trying to use PSTV to play PS4 downstairs where we have the exercise bike set up, and the lag is just enough that it makes Destiny largely unplayable for me.  The answer on all of the forums seems to be to hard wire your PSTV into your network…. but I don’t have the ability to have Ethernet downstairs, and I question how well powerline adapters would work in my house.  Which moves me to potentially relocating my Xbox 360 to downstairs and playing some Destiny on it.  I ended up picking it up and I have to say… I am pretty impressed.  The game for the most part “feels” the same…  just at a much lower resolution.  To some extent playing on the 360 feels like you are squinting while playing it on the PS4.  Everything is just slightly lower resolution, which would make sense considering that Destiny runs at 1080p 30fps on the PlayStation 4 and it runs 720p 30fps on the Xbox 360.  The difference is noticeable when you are standing still but for the most part in the heat of the battle I don’t really notice it that much.

The only negative of playing on the Xbox 360 however is that I am starting completely over.  I’ve read that apparently you can log your characters in on either Xbox 360 or Xbox One… and the same goes for PS4 and PS3.  So if I ever get a Xbox One at some point all of the effort I have done on the 360 will port over.  Interestingly enough though that means that I guess I could have picked up a copy for the PS3 and played my existing PS4 characters on it.  That said…  I have heard some really bad issues with Destiny on the PS3.  Everything I had read about the 360 made it sound like it was just a downgraded resolution… but I’ve heard the PS3 version is only running at a strange 624p and also has some framerate dip issues.  Mostly I am still amazed at just how well it runs on last generation hardware, and while I won’t have that constant desire to take screenshots because the game is so damned pretty….  it will give me something interesting to do while riding the exercise bike.  I have a woefully small number of people on my XBox Live account so feel free to add BelghastStern, and especially if you play Destiny on the 360 please let me know!