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.

Not First Rodeo

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The Waiting Game

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Yesterday marked the official release of The Division… or at least it did in some parts of the country.  Most of the evening was a simple case of me waiting around for the servers to unlock.  My friend Lonrem apparently purchased his CD Key from a UK reseller, and as a result he was able to get in and play significantly earlier than the rest of us.  It was completely unintentional as he was simply shopping around for the best deal, but I guess that is a neat trick for games like this that have a somewhat staggered launch cycle.  The rest of us however had to wait for midnight eastern to pop in and attempt to play.  I say attempt to play, because as the saying goes… this is not my first rodeo.  To the best of my knowledge UbiSoft has never launched an MMO, so as a result I expected the first night to be extremely choppy.  My only real complaint is the fact that I had to wait until around 11:50 to begin extracting the game from steam…  which was a process that took over twenty minutes.  I mean I get why they limit folks, but it seems like they could have flipped that switch about 11pm and let folks get through that step so they were quite literally ready to go when the final switch was thrown at midnight.  The bulk of last night was me playing other things while waiting on access to The Division.  My goal was simple… stay up long enough to create a character and then head to bed.

I played a little Destiny, and then ultimately retired to the sofa to piddle around.  After doing my Garrison chores in World of Warcraft, I ultimately landed in How to Survive 2, which is a game that is really growing on me.  It is not going to win any rewards for graphical fidelity, but there is something about it that I find appealing.  Sunday I managed to get the first mission that straight up wrecked me, so last night I attempted it again but this time dialing down the difficulty a little bit.  That is one of the things that I failed to notice at first is that you can repeat the missions, but each time you can adjust up or down the difficulty.  This creates some interesting ways to get easy experience, as the very first mission objective is simply kill 5 undead…  which you can do really quickly and if you crank up the slider to maximum difficulty you soak up lots of xp.  The mission I struggled with was the very first night mission, which means I had to see everything by either spotty moonlight or by shining my flashlight around.  This made exploring buildings as anxiety ridden for me as I imagine it would be for real in this situation.  I found myself playing vastly differently… shutting doors after me to buy myself some time just like I used to board up windows in State of Decay.  If that mission signals more of the game to come I am looking forward to seeing it, because I expect to repeat that mission a bunch just because it was extremely enjoyable trying to stay alive in a much more infected city at night.

Desert Parkour

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I guess I was simply in a zombie mood because after playing a few missions in How to Survive 2, I moved over and booted up Dying Light.  Now I have had a copy of this game for quite a while but never wound up playing it.  I am not exactly sure why, because at least aspects of this game are right down my alley.  The whole parkour thing… not so much, but their particular implementation is pretty great.  At base level the game reminds me a lot of the fun I had running around the rooftops in Assassins Creed II, but this time… the citizens were out to kill me and I couldn’t really blend in among them.  I feel like I am late to the party, but I had quite a bit of fun running the first several missions.  I managed to make it through the tutorial and into the “real” game where I chose to remain offline, because I absolutely did not want some player showing up in my game and hunting me down as the “Night Hunter”.  While I didn’t actually make it terribly far before feeling like I needed to log out and watch the clock again…  I want to definitely pick this back up the next time I want a single player game.  It seems like an amalgam of a bunch of other games that I enjoyed, and it looked gorgeous on my laptop and performed extremely well.

Crash and Burn

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I already talked a bit about the frustrations of having to wait for the game to unpack, and while I had not intended to… I popped on voice chat to hang out with Tam, Kodra and Ashgar who were all waiting as well.  Ash purchased through Uplay so he was up and running well before the rest of us.  Tam, Kodra and I all seemed to get in around the same time and I apparently took significantly longer on the character creator than the other two.  I was just about to finalize my appearance when I hit a server connection error.  As expected the UPlay servers crashed and crashed hard.  It was at this point that I decided to go to bed, because I doubted they would be playable for awhile.  My key complaint with this game is that you are not sent to a menu first, so that means you have no access to the graphical settings until after you wade through the introduction.  In the multiple betas I have played in and on multiple machines…  this game has never once auto selected a viable graphics option.  During beta it kept trying to tell me I could run the game on 4k… and this time around it seems to favor running the game in a postage stamp sized window.  It is only after logging in and changing the settings that things became usable.  Dear UbiSoft… never do this again…  in a PC game the first screen you see should ALWAYS be the Graphics/Audio/Whatsit menu.  I mean I get what they are going for…  wrapping the player in story from the second they launch the game…  but this could have been just as easily done from hitting the play button from a menu.

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I managed to get into the game this morning, created my character and poked my way around the Brooklyn starter zone that we did not get to see during the beta.  So far I am liking it, it feels like a less hectic version of Manhattan.  I am not sure if I am simply better at the game than I was when I first played beta, or if the AI is really dumb… but I am mowing down the mobs in the Brooklyn area without issue.  I like how often gear upgrades are dropping and at this point in the few minutes I have played I have already essentially swapped out my entire gear set other than weapon.  The only frustration is that I really want to get to the rewards vendor so I can make sure all of the items that I supposedly unlocked are really available.  I have an 8pm raid tonight in Destiny but it is my hope to pop in and play some Division tonight to maybe get out of tutorial land.  If the servers stay stable…  like will be golden.  I don’t think there was anyone who has ever experiences an MMO launch that did not expect the servers to crash and burn last night.  However in talking to my friend Ravener, it seems like they recovered pretty quickly and within an hour the game was completely playable for the rest of the night.

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.

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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!

Wilderqueen

Contemplating Forge

Last night was another night that was all over the place.  Firstly I decided to reinstall Forge.gg and give it another chance.  I have so many mixed emotions about this service, I like the concept that I can grab short clips at the end of my gaming session.  I dislike the fact that I can ONLY grab short clips, which are generally too short to show a boss fight for example.  I like the always on nature, and that it can just run in the background without me feeling like I need to be entertaining.  However I ran into some issues last night where apparently even though I had push to talk set… it was still actively picking up my microphone the entire time as you can see in the above clip.  So you get a snippet of a conversation between my wife and I about something I don’t even remember.  I like the idea of streaming but I don’t always want to be actively interacting, and forge is this great middle ground.  Ultimately I wound up muting my microphone at a system level just to make sure that it was not picking up.  I am hoping this is just a bug in the current client, and I will crawl the site to see if I can find out why this was happening.

The other gotcha it seems is that it did not pick up and start recording Elder Scrolls Online.  I spent the first part of the evening doing garrison dailies and doing at least one Tanaan objective in World of Warcraft and it recorded all of that perfectly.  However as soon as I swapped into ESO, it never came up with the forge icon in the upper right hand corner of the screen letting me know it is recording.  I will say that the really really nice thing about the client is sometime in between my last attempt at using the service and this one… it seems to work nicer with Fraps because there is no way I am giving up that just to use the service.  I am too used to having a common and centralized screenshot tool for all of the games I play.  It is an absolute necessity that I have a fresh source of new screenshots for this blog, and I hate having to try and find the screenshot directory for each individual game.  So instead I tend to unbind the screenshot key if it is allowed and just use Fraps for everything.  It was awesome last night that I was able to use fraps just fine while still recording on forge….  at least when it came to World of Warcraft.  I am going to be a sad panda if that ends up being the issue with it recording Elder Scrolls Online.

Return to Greenshade

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The bulk of my time last night was spent wandering around Greenshade in the Elder Scrolls Online.  Generally speaking I tend to play this game by wandering aimlessly from objective to objective, but last night I actually seemed to move through the zone with a purpose.  That purpose being ingratiating myself to the Court of the Wilderking, a forest spirit that controls the Valenwood and that the local Bosmer worship as a God King.  As part of trying to quell the rebellion and steal forces away from the Veiled Heritance, my mission was simple…  get the support of the Wilderking to get the support of the local forces…. thus ending the  rebellion.  I of course did a bunch of other stuff along the way, and I am not entirely complete with the main story sequence…  but I am having a blast.  I got sidetracked in helping a friend level in World of Warcraft, and then again by the Love is in the Air event…. and finally I am settling back into Elder Scrolls Online for a bit.  Granted currently I will probably continue to hop games like mad because there is just so damned much stuff that I want to be playing.  In Elder Scrolls I have yet to see any of the Imperial City content, or Orsinium… and they are just about to release the Thieves Guild as well.  So much catching up to do… but at the same time I feel like I have all the time in the world to do it because I am not playing the game at a serious end game focused level.

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The other big happening of the night is that I finally dinged Veteran Rank 4, allowing me access to the next tier of crafted gear.  I was doing awesome….  until I screwed up and rushed to get my shield made and forgot to go to the set crafting area.  Originally I was planning on having 5 piece Alessia’s Bulwark, and 4 piece Ashen Grip…  except I am now sitting at 3 pieces in that set because I got sidetracked and ended up making a non-set shield.  Unfortunately I am completely out of the right kind of wood so I will need to do some more adventuring before I can finish things out.  For the time being I have opted to abandon my costume and go with the actual armor look because I dig the Imperial armor look.  I will probably always favor the Dunmer sword type, though recently I did enjoy using an axe for a bit.  The game looks amazing on the laptop, and I am so damned happy with how well everything is performing to be honest.  It does get a little hot but then again what gaming laptop doesn’t.  My previous one had a SLI graphics card configuration so had insanely hot air venting out of both sides of the laptop.  At least this setup isn’t continuously baking my mouse hand.  I just need to sort out why exactly Forge was not recording the game.

The Division

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Also looming on the near horizon is the launch of The Division.  At this point it is absolutely certain that I will be playing it on the PC, at least at first.  When the price comes down a little I will probably also pick it up for the PS4 so that I have access to it for any of the friends that happen to be playing there.  For the last few days since the end of the beta I have trying to sort out how best to organize folks for the upcoming launch.  The game itself does not really have guilds or clans or any structure like that….  at least that I saw in the two betas I have been part of.  So as a result this is going to make getting stuff going a little more difficult than in other games.  However my friend Sigtric, the man who coined the hashtag #BelEffect is firing up a Discord group and attempting to get it to be the official/unofficial chat server for the game.  If you are going to be playing I highly suggest you pop by and join the “Gone Rogue” community.  There is a shared general chat and breakout channels for PC, PS4, and Xbox One to make organizing things a little easier.  I honestly wish I had something like this for Destiny.  Discord is one of those things that is growing on me, and while I still find Slack easier to use…  there is a point in the near future where I could see abandoning traditional voice servers and moving to Discord entirely.

 

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.

Unexpected Change

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Strange Transition

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I entered this weekend very much favoring the Playstation 4 version of The Division, because quite simply “it just worked”.  Friday and Saturday both I had all manner of problems with the PC version of the game, but it seems like most of those issues were server side.  Sometime during the day on Saturday they either ramped up new servers, or did sometime to improve the processing… because when booted up the game Sunday morning, everything seemed to magically “just work”.  It is funny just how much network and loading lag can destroy your game experience, because a lot of the problems I had associated with the game client itself…  simply went away.  Before I thought the console interface felt more smooth, but in truth the PC one works just as well once you are no longer fighting with input processing delays.  Additionally I was shocked and amazed at just how well I managed to get this working on my elder laptop.  It isn’t perfect and it isn’t nearly as pretty as it looks on my upstairs desktop….  but it works, and enough for me to get in and run missions or explore the world while watching some television.  Last night I even managed to do more than that, as I took down several bosses that I apparently forgot to pick up from the Hudson river camp.  I had no problem whittling down significantly higher level mobs, and it feels like the longer I play this game… the more I get used to the third person tactical style.

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The other big takeaway I have is how much I am now seeming to not only enjoy the PC client… but lean towards it.  One of the big reasons for me is Teamspeak and to a lesser extent Discord.  Both of which are simple voice solutions that sound so much better than Playstation party chat.  Also it allows me to hang out with people who are not necessarily playing the same game I happen to be playing.  Since I am part of a very social gaming community, this was a huge problem I had when it came to Destiny, because the entire time I was playing that game I felt walled off from my friends.  Another problem I am finding starting to disappear was the whole lack of “space guns” issue I talked about.  This game seems to have a really wide variety of weapon options, that cover more than just the AR/AK realm of assault rifles.  I’ve picked up no less than four different flavors of shogtun, each of which felt completely different in the way it handled.  I also managed to find what seems to be my “Ideal” weapon which is the Enfield L86 LSW rifle that you can see me firing in the above image.  It has pretty great single round accuracy and also fires some really tight bursts that while they travel up… seem to do so in a more predictable manner.   I guess this isn’t super shocking because in World War II games back in the day I used to love firing the Enfield MK1.

Remaining Challenge

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Now the challenge that remains is where exactly to pre-order the game from.  Everyone seems to be offering pretty much the exact same stuff for digital copies of the game…  with Gamestop being the only retail difference offering the Hazmat Suit seemingly in addition to the National Guard outfit that comes with the gold version.  For years I was absolutely opposed to darkening the door of a Gamestop, however at Pax South I met someone that made me start to re-evaluate that line of thinking.  Any company smart enough to make @JetPackHattie a manager… and give her free reign to create awesome events for her store seems like a place that cannot be all bad.  I also went int the other day when I was tracking down a Hori Fight Commander 4 controller, and no one tried to up sell me on anything….  which was always the problem I had with going in the first place.  Problem being at this point… I am not sure if I can pre-order in enough time to guarantee that I get the special bonus stuff.  I also hate physical copies of games, but it seems like GameStop now has a download only option for UbiSoft games at least.  The problem being…  part of me kinda wants this game tracking through Steam even though I still have to launch a horrible horrible secondary UPlay client.  So I begin to ask myself…. will I ever actually wear the Hazmat suit?  The answer is probably not… whereas I can absolutely see myself wearing the National Guard uniform… or at least parts of it.

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In any case I will need to decide something since the game launches in roughly two weeks.  Of note…  just for the sake of anyone wondering how this game will look on their own aging hardware.  Every screenshot I posted this morning is pulled from my laptop which is essentially running 720p and the lowest possible graphical settings.  The game still looks really decent, or at least better than a lot of the previous generation of shooters.  As far as frames per second… at the high end I could hit 50 and at the low end I was hitting around 35… both of which I consider very playable especially given that I was playing the game on a three year old laptop.  Focusing in on targets that are a significant distance away is not the easiest thing in the world.  However with the Enfield I was able to headshot enemies that were on a rooftop from the safety of my hidey hole behind a planter box.  Sure I was targeting a blurry mess, but it was easy enough to determine where the “head” was in said blurry mess.  Essentially at least until the official PS4 Remote Play app releases…. the PC version seems to give me the most options given that I can play upstairs on my desktop, where my PS4 is sitting… or I can play downstairs on my laptop… and in both cases I can play with or without a controller.  The PC version also makes it significantly easier to take screenshots given that with the PS4 I have to constantly be swapping a thumb drive back and forth to copy the files off.  So yeah… over the course of the weekend I shifted allegiance and am now leaning heavily towards picking it up the PC.

 

Cat Hangers and Raptors

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Returning to Life

I am getting a really late start today, because I had to edit an extra long podcast this morning… then from that point on we have been doing adult type activities.  We walked to lunch at the local Pho place, and then went grocery shopping.  Finally I am now settling in to write my blog post.  Anyone who has kept up with my blog over the last month will realize that PAX South kicked my ass in so many different ways.  Firstly I was in significantly worse shape this year than I was last year.  In 2015 I had been walking every single day… and in 2016 I had pretty much fallen out of that habit.  So physically the exertion was real of walking 25 miles over the course of the days I was at the convention.  I think I simply wore myself down to the point where it likely made it easier for me to catch something at the convention, because starting that Sunday on the drive home I struggled with this crud quite literally until right now.  I am still in the process of fully getting back my voice, and I still go into random coughing fits.  That said I am feeling so damned much better than I did, and yesterday really helped that.  Also if you have read my blog for a very long time…  you will know that one of the pastimes that my wife and I like to partake is what I lovingly refer to as “junking”.  Generally speaking this is us going to a bunch of flea markets, thrift stores, and other “junk” shops in search of something.  For me personally my constant hunt is for cheap Legos… and for her… the mission varies greatly.  Recently she has been on the hunt for cheap board games for her class room.

The other thing that I really enjoy about the process is that I find some really strange shit while roaming around.  I tend to take photos of these and either blog about them… or simply post them to twitter throughout the day.  Yesterday was no exception, and you can see in the above image gallery some of the oddities I found.  The first image….  is apparently a Cat Hanger…. for when you want it to look like your cat is wearing your clothing.  The second was this insanely huge raptor mask…. that I thought I really needed, but had zero clue where I would actually put it.  I thought it would have been amazing to try and stuff and hang on the wall like a trophy.  Next up is the Freddy Krueger “Fright Squirter” which… is a disturbingly named product and I am just going to leave it at that.  I really like old school technology, and while roaming around I came across what I can only assume is a key punch of some sort? Either that or a really strange adding machine.  I also happened across this insane deal on Funko Pop Vinyl figures, and I managed to exercise real restraint in that I only managed to bring four of them home.  They were roughly $10 each before the special so I picked up Illidan, Tyrael, the Lone Wanderer, and the Borderlands Psycho.  There were so many that I wanted to pick up, and I probably would have if they had any of the Mass Effect series or some more of the Blizzard ones.  Basically it was this awesome day of running around and for once the weather cooperated, making it what seemed to be needed to greatly improve my spirits.

Teetering On the Fence

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I am guessing as the day went on yesterday, the folks at Ubisoft made some significant infrastructure changes because this morning I was able to play the Division PC without any of those hiccups I was experiencing yesterday.  Now unfortunately I am on the fence as to which platform I favor.  There is something nice about being able to play on the PC, especially since in theory my laptop is capable of running it….  albeit extremely ugly.  The big thing that concerns me about this game is that I think the Dark Zone will actually be somewhat fun to play around in, especially with a team.  On the PC how nice your system is will absolutely dictate how well you perform out there, and there is just something reassuring about knowing that you are on an even playing field with all of the other players you might encounter.  I had quite a bit of fun this morning, because I finally completed the cleaner mission unlocking the tech operative and restoring power to the section of the city.  I also spent a good bit of time wandering off the beaten path.  Last night on the AggroChat podcast I talked a bit about my lament for the lack of content density, and I guess in truth I just needed to wander around off of the main streets.  While roaming the back alleys I seemed to encounter quite a few more people than I did in other areas, which also seemed to be lucrative when it came to drops and other rewards.

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Essentially I need to see who all is interested in playing the game, and what their platform of preference is.  This is the sort of experience that is only really going to be fun if I can get a group of people to play with.  The other question is…. do I really have the time to devote to something else.  This game is only sixteen days away at this point, and I have so many other things that I want to be playing.  After the discussion last night about Warframe I really want to give that another chance, and there is so much left that I want to be doing over in Elder Scrolls Online.  Basically I question if I have enough time to devote to this new game, even thought I think it is going to be really fun.  One of the problems that Tam and I talked about last night on the podcast was the lack of “space guns” or that the game was essentially locked down to guns that actually exist today.  That said it does seem like there is a huge variety in weapons available, because I have at least a dozen different weapons right now that I have picked up as drops and they all perform vastly different.  In any case… I guess I need to be making up my mind soon so I can get my pre-order in and lock in those pre-release bonuses.  Mostly they are cosmetic in nature…. but you know me and my love of cosmetics.  Though I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised in just how many outfit drops I have found by roaming around.  The game looks to be a lot of the things that Destiny promised to be…  which in some way makes me sad…. because I still very much love Destiny.