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.



Division PC Impressions

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The Hard Data

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This weekend is another beta test of The Division, and from the sounds of it… this is a much larger pool of testers than the weekend of Pax South.  That Sunday and Monday after Pax South I managed to play quite a bit of Division on the PS4, so this time around I decided ahead of time that I would be trying it out on the PC just to get the broad feel of how the game performs on multiple platforms.  When it comes to PC gaming… a lot of your experience rides upon your hardware.  For the purpose of this test I decided to try playing it on both my gaming desktop upstairs, and my older gaming laptop.  I knew pretty much that the laptop would not perform well at all, but I was still curious to see if the game could reach a playable state on it.  So as a result I thought it was probably best to start by listing the important stats of my two gaming systems… so you can use that hopefully as a judge of how the game will perform on your own systems.  Since this is also an online game… I opted to take a quick speed test this morning just to use that for reference as well.

Gaming Desktop

  • AMD FX-6300 3.5 ghz 6 cores
  • 16 GB Ram
  • MSI GTX 960 4G Gaming Edition Video

Gaming Laptop

  • Intel i7-3630QM 2.4 ghz 8 cores
  • 16 GB Ram
  • 2X Nvidia Geforce GT 650M in SLI Video

Internet Speed


The Gaming Desktop

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Gaming Desktop – 1080P Medium Resolution

When I first booted up this game, I have to say I had an inordinate amount of difficulty getting it to run.  The problem is the fact that you cannot get to the video and graphics quality settings until you wade through the character creation step.  This is unfortunate, since as an MMO gamer primarily… the character creation process is super important to me.  Initially the game launched in such a way that I thought it was trying to split the image between my two monitors.  I did the Alt+Enter trick to drop it to windowed mode, and then Alt+Enter again to attempt to fix the resolution.  However this time I had no mouse input, and could not really touch anything on the screen.  After exiting the game and reloading I was finally able to get in and through the character creation process, which is locked down and pretty minimal at the moment.  However if you hit randomize enough times you can get a character that you can live with at least for the purpose of this test.  Upon entering the video settings…. I realized that for some godawful reason the game was trying to by default run in 4K.  I simply do not have a machine capable for 4K gaming, and I think it was just freaking the hell out on my machine and monitors.  After dialing back the game to 1080p I started getting a fairly reliable 50-60 fps with dips into the high 40s as you can see in the first screenshot of this post.  At least on paper that seems like a really playable framerate, and I give them credit for making the game look gorgeous even on the Medium settings I was running.

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Gaming Desktop – 1080P Medium Resolution

The problem being that the game was not really playable even though I was getting roughly 60 fps.  It suffered horribly from some bad hitching anytime I moved into a new area, or often times in the middle of combat.  I can’t really call it rubber-banding, because there was no time rollback component but it felt quite a bit like rubber banding in MMOs where you hit this hard wall of lag… and things lock up before the world unfreezes and catches up.  This is not too horrible when you are simply running around the city and you enter what I can only assume is a new “zone”, but this is deadly when it comes to combat and encountering mobs that are causing your screen to freeze.  Now my friend Jabberant said that he played all last test on the PC and did not experience any of this… so it makes me wonder if this is simply a case of network congestion or some sort of bottle-necking happening on the server farm.  In any case it does not bode well for the enjoy-ability and stability of this game at launch.  Another friend suggested that I turn off VSync and this to some extent lessened the severity of the freezes…. but they were still very much there anytime I moved into a new area, or encountered hostiles on screen.

The Gaming Laptop

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Gaming Laptop – 720P Low Resolution

Now just a bit of a foreword… I did not expect this game to be playable on my laptop.  My laptop is a Lenovo y500 and at this point that model range is over three years old.  At the time it was hot shit, featuring one of the only laptops I knew with available SLI.  Instead of an optical drive, it features a second hot swappable video card that fits in the multi-bay, and as a result I can still run a lot of games that I should not theoretically be able to run on a GT 650M video card.  I have had decent luck by ratcheting games down to 720p instead of the native 1080p resolution, and I can play things like Dragon Age Inquisition that way… that otherwise choke on this machine.  As a result I thought this would be a good test of just how well this game might run on an aging system.  Firstly I was not shocked that initially I was getting 10-15 fps at 1080p but upon dropping the graphical settings to low and the resolution to 720p I was able to achieve fairly reliable 25-40 fps even in combat.  The problem being that at 6:30 am on a Saturday morning…  the servers should be under as little load as they will ever be during this weekend test…. and I was still seeing significant stalling and freezing anytime I moved into a new area of town… or entered combat.  So this seems to be a general problem with the game, and not necessarily limited to my desktop upstairs.  All of which tells me… the PC client needs some serious tuning before it is ready for prime time.  Given that “prime time” in this case is Seventeen days away on March 8th… this is a little worrisome.

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Gaming Laptop – 720P Low Resolution

All of this said… the game was shockingly playable on this old hardware.  It felt pretty much like playing Destiny on an XBox 360.  Sure the world looks like a blurry mess, but the core gameplay itself was pretty solid…  apart from the whole freezing thing.  I could in theory see myself playing this on the laptop without much issue, and even games like Warframe cause me to make resolution concessions to be able to run them downstairs from the comfort of my couch.  I also have to say that as far as controlling the game… I am MUCH better at playing it with a mouse and keyboard, largely because even after all the time spent with Destiny… I am MUCH more accurate with a mouse than I will probably ever be with a controller.  So given that Laptop graphics cards generally run an entire generation behind as far as performance goes… that would mean my laptop is the equivalent of an SLI GTX 550 setup….  so a 660/670/680 range video card in a desktop should be able to give equivalent performance.  Basically meaning that if you have an old machine, it won’t look pretty but the game should at least still be playable.

PC versus PS4

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Gaming Desktop – 1080p Medium Resolution

There are positives and negatives about both systems.  You can read my original thoughts about last beta test, where I talk more about the game-play than the nuts and bolts.  A lot of those statements still apply for either version.  Largely where I stand at the moment is…  the concept of being able to play from my laptop is really nice…  but even then I was consistently plagued by problems.  The Division on PC will be a viable game at some point, but my fear is it will be months after release and a couple of patches later, which is honestly what I have  come to expect from the MMO gaming launch cycle.  These sort of games are rarely if ever 100% on the PC at day one, and I fear that The Division is going to be another case of that.  The Playstation client however just worked flawlessly.  I didn’t need to get in and fiddle with resolutions or slowly and painstakingly ratchet things down until they reached a level of performance I was happy with.  Instead I just booted up the client and played the damn game.  As someone who has always favored PC as the platform of choice… I have to say it sounds really damned odd to hear myself saying that.  Sure there are problems with PSN and such, and I fully expect it to be flaky a bit around launch day to.  However once you get into the game it just works, and works well.  Sure there are issues with some muddy textures on the PS4, but the game runs without hitching in combat or movement or anything of the sort.  So right now I am still very much up in the air about purchasing this game, however if I do… I will more than likely be picking it up on the Playstation 4.  The ability to simply turn it on and play without having to worry about framerates and resolutions…  is extremely appealing.  Additionally there is the problem of this being a heavily PVP game… and at least on a console I know all of us players are on even footing.  With the PC… this is absolutely going to be a game where your system will control how well you can play.  On low settings….  aiming on encounters is really difficult because the further away from you the mob is… the more it just sort of blends into the background.  Running on high resolution and sharp textures is going to give an advantage to anyone who can afford the system to run it.  So largely for my impressions… I am a bit disappointed in The Division as PC gaming experience…. but I know that I can always fall back on the PS4 and still be happy as a clam.



FPS Evolved Genre


Thoughts for Motiga


One of the aspects of Pax South 2016 that felt strange for me, was the complete and total lack of Motiga and Gigantic.  I cannot fully express how much of my experience this game was in 2015.  I had a great time hanging out with the Motiga crew thanks to Lonrem brokering a connection, and then kept dragging people to the booth to play Gigantic.  It felt like the sort of MOBA experience I had been looking for.  When I played a tanky character, it felt like playing an MMO tank.  When I played a ranged character, it felt like playing a really good ranged shooter.  I feel like hands down they were the belle of the ball last year, and when I heard about their layoffs in december, and the fact that they were not on the roster for 2016… I started to get concerned.  Since coming back from Pax last year I have been lucky enough to have access to all of the alpha and beta events, but I have to admit I didn’t really play much of it.  For the longest time it just played lousy on my then Geforce 750ti video card…. and now that I have at least upgraded to a 960 I am wondering if maybe it would perform a little better.  As of yesterday however I am really starting to worry for the folks at the company, because according to a Gamasutra article the just underwent some pretty significant staff reduction in a last ditch attempt to get more funding to finish the game.

Now that the NDA has lifted I don’t have to worry quite so much about how I talk about Gigantic.  I really need to reinstall the game and see what its current state happens to be.  The biggest problem  that the game had was that its back end systems were not quite as polished as the front end game play.  Matchmaking was a big issue, and the fact that in order to get valuable feeling matches… you realistically needed to hang out on testing ventrilo and and form some sort of a custom game.  The last time I attempted to boot up the game I sat in a matchmaking queue for thirty minutes and then finally gave up.  My friend Rae apparently has played it more recently, but ran into a pretty elitist player base… with her catching shit for not doing the right thing at the right time.  This is one of those games that is so damned close to really good…. but I worry that maybe they missed their window by a year.  I’ve always said that in order for this game to be really popular it needed to be first to market, since it is essentially launching an untested IP.  The awesome thing is though, that the characters…. well… for lack of a better term have character.  They are interesting and are animated in a way that they spring to life.  This game has what League of Legends has… but so many other games in the MOBA genre have lacked…  personality.  I really hope that they can pull this off, but as always I worry about the folks that were just let go.  This game deserves its time in the sun, and I think it will flourish on consoles….  quite possibly more so than on the PC that already has a fairly entrenched first person MOBA genre.  The critical date however is that they HAVE to beat Overwatch to launch, or they are pretty much toast.  Even thought those two games are vastly different in feel… players are still mentally lumping them all together in this “fps evolved” genre of folks taking the FPS template and doing new things with it.

Overwatch Beta Returns


Speaking of the 500 lb gorilla that Gigantic has to beat to market…  as of yesterday the Overwatch Beta is back on, and with it has also returned much gnashing of teeth as more folks failed to get in.  At this point I am pretty much resigned that I will not likely get to play until open beta testing at some point.  For a brief period of time I thought that maybe I had access, because in the launcher the install button suddenly started showing up for me.  The only problem being that it was grayed out, and not clickable.  I am guessing this was a temporary glitch because later that evening when I popped into WoW to do my garrison gold farming… it was back to hiding the install button again.  The truth is…  even if I had beta access I probably would not be playing it much.  My recent return to Elder Scrolls Online has taught me that… maybe I am just not a good beta candidate these days.  I absolutely blame the almost two years of regularly ESO testing for my diminished desire to play after getting to the veteran ranks.  I quite literally had burned myself out on all of the newbie content, so that the thought of alting my way through it again just felt painful.  I poured my heart and soul into that testing experience, because I wanted that game to be the best damned game it could be… and honestly judging it today through very clear eyes…  I think it turned out pretty great.

I want to be able to walk into Overwatch and have the game feel free and exciting, and be able to experience the new player rush along with everyone else.  Sure I would love to be able to play the game when the whim hits me right now, but I am not going to be the sort of hard core tester and bug reporter that they really need right now.  In this sort of game, balance and gameplay statistics are key… and they need a sheer volume of data to sift through to be able to shape their design decisions.  So for me… who is going to maybe play the game once a month…  I am not exactly a great resource and if you replaced me with someone who is going to stream the game every night… you would be far better off in the end.  I’ve developed this aversion to playing games before they are officially released.  Now granted… I still do regularly…. but I have begun to learn my lesson.  Torment: Tides of Numenera for example is absolutely available to me to test because I backed the project…. but I have zero desire right now to do so.  I want to play the finished version of the game, when it is “ready for primetime” and not have to sift through crippling bugs.  Maybe my tolerance for “broken games” is less than it used to be… or maybe there are just so damned many things that I want to be playing that spending my time on an unfinished product feels like a waste.  In any case… I am a bad beta tester, and will continue to be super happy for those who are getting invited and enjoying their time playing games like Overwatch.


The Division Impressions

Glad to see Television Still Works

Bad Christmas Simulator

Black Friday Ends in Tears

I have to say I was pretty sad when I found out that The Division beta would be going on the same weekend I would be in San Antonio at Pax South.  So when I heard that they planned on extending the deadlines, I have to say I was pretty pumped.  The Division is one of those games that has looked good on paper up, but I have been really questioning as to whether or not I will like it.  Call of Duty for example, is one of those series that I enjoyed when it first came out, but as it has evolved I have become less and less interested in the continued military operator fantasy.  I think a lot of it has come from the fact that every game seems to use exactly the same guns.  I mean I get why this is the case, since these guns are real world guns… that they are just trying to replicate in a game.  So when I started thinking about The Division versus Destiny…. I have to say I lean heavily towards crazy space guns over things that can actually exist in the world I happen to live in.  However I am also a huge fan of post apocalyptic settings…. and The Division seems like it might deliver on a near future version of that.  So to say I was fraught is an understatement, then over the weekend I ended up talking with a couple that told me who much they liked it, coming from a heavy Destiny background.  So when I got home Sunday night, I went upstairs started the hefty download.

Glad to see Television Still Works
Glad to see Television Still Works

So when I got up yesterday morning I finally got the chance to play the game.  I really was not sure what to expect, and I guess in all of the screenshots and video I had not really gotten it through my head that it was a third person shooter.  This has honestly been the biggest challenge for me when playing Warframe recently, because I am generally bad at playing a shooter from a third person perspective.  Third person definitely makes things easier to move around, but when it comes to aiming a gun…. I just find it awkward.  The fact that this is a game that relies heavily on ducking behind the next patch of cover, it almost HAS to be third person to make that work.  In many ways it reminds me of Gears of War, in that you are constantly rolling forward trying to move up on mobs while at the same time staying in safety.  The problem with that is… I am just not that kind of a player.  I tend to be very run and gun… and sure I use the hell out of cover but I am constantly zipping in and out of it.  This game feels more like a tactical RPG at times than it does a pure shooter, and I am not quite sure how I feel about that.  You have to understand… that I have never played any of the other Tom Clancy branded games, because that player fantasy never really appealed to me.  The fact that this game is an MMO Shooter of sorts… is really the part that places it in my wheelhouse rather than the content matter.

The Systems

Amazing Mapping System
Amazing Mapping System

The thing that I really want to talk about is just how damned good this games mapping system is.  When you pull it up it brings up a holographic representation of the area you are in, and it has various objectives marked.  You can go talk to an NPC inside each of the bases that gives you a situation report on the area, and as a result creates these little highlighted markers.  As you are running through the world, you can see every single blip on the map… but you get special visualization for whichever objective you happen to have highlighted.  In the various screenshots I am posting today, there will be these orange lines running down the street, and these serve to show you the best route to the location you are trying to reach.  This makes movement through the very dense sections of New York city pretty manageable.  What it does not take into account is that in many cases you can actually cut through buildings to get to your destiny and in doing so find all sorts of hidden resources.  As you are roaming around there are lots of caches that you can find, and these have everything from resources to weapons, and it feels like looting structures in a zombie survival game.  I am still not 100% certain what some of the resources are used for, but the obsessive side of me cannot leave a single bag sitting un-looted.

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Ramshackle Bases

The gameplay for the most part resolves around expanding your reach and setting up these bases of operation in new areas.  At first you start out on the banks of the Hudson River, and you push into the city with the first mission based around driving away the hostiles and reclaiming a base.  From there you start retrieving people from the impromptu medical center set up in Madison Square garden.  So you rescue a virologist to take back to your base, and then that launches a sequence of quests that involve collecting additional resources to help set up your medical facilities.  The problem is for me at least that I cannot seem to stay on track, and that even though I have a giant orange line leading me to the objective…. I keep ending up going off the rails and looting every building that I happen to come across.  The other issue that I am having is that I struggle how to identify who is just a harmless bum roaming down the street…. and who is someone that will actually kill me.  I ended up wandering down this alleyway, without much options for cover… and next thing I know a patch of what I think are harmless survivors… ended up opening fire on me.  In the middle of the batch was apparently a major boss that straight up killed me.  So while the mapping system is amazing, the threat assessment portion seems to be kinda confusing at least for me… since everyone including me… dresses like they just came from a shelter.

Still on the Fence

Tom Clancy's The Division™ Beta_20160201094319

Right now I am not sure if I am on board or not.  I played enough to decide that I mostly liked it…  but I still struggle with whole third person thing.  The big boss fights are pretty hectic, but I have learned that for the most part… I simply need to find a hidey hole and kill mobs until the boss finally comes to me.  It isn’t nearly as heroic as rushing in and dodging bullets…. but it seems to be more consistent than trying to run around and stay alive at the same time.  The other big take away…. is that gear is really damned expensive.  I am used to being able to buy upgrades pretty quickly in games… but I have sold a lot of random crap that I have found out in the world, but have been able to afford absolutely nothing.  One of the things that I love about Destiny is that I am constantly getting new weapons to play with… and if this game ends up keeping the same set of weapons around too long I am going to get bored.  What makes MMOs interesting for me… is the whole aspect of constantly upgrading gear.  I have learned over the years that characters get stale for me, when I stop getting upgrades.  So while I am getting drops that are upgrades are mostly armor, but I have yet to get a single interesting weapon drop.  So I think in the long run that might be an issue if the beta test is relevant to how the rest of the game is going to feel.  The other big problem for me is that I have a feeling that if folks get this…. we are going to be spread out between PC, PS4 and Xbox One… and I am certain that there will not be cross platform play.  Right now I am leaning towards the PS4 version… but I have a feeling that most of the AggroChat folks if they got this… would be playing it on the PC.  So now I just have to decide…. do I pick this up or do I wait, and while making this decision I should probably see how nice the pre-order bonuses are.


Kitten Assist


Helping Hand


This is becoming a pretty regular occurrence in my office, where Kenzie decides to “lay” behind one of my two monitors and then spend time poking her head out under the bottom and bopping things with her paw.  This morning she has been desperately trying to drag my phone that is attached to a usb cable towards her…  which is making me rethink the placement of that charger cable.  For the most part this weekend we hibernated to avoid the cold, and while we had nothing to deal with like the blizzard folks on the east coast…  I am not equipped to handle 20* temperatures that well.  The biggest news of the weekend is that we got our new dishwasher set up on Saturday.  Its stupid but right now it feels like we are purposefully dirtying dishes just so we can “play with it”.  I know it sounds like we truly are deprived of fun when you put it into those terms.  The truth is… we’ve gone without a dishwasher for a very long time.  The order of business was to rinse things out, and set them in the sink… until we had enough there to warrant washing dishes.  Now we simply dump the dirties in the dishwasher as we dirty them….  which is making me have to rewire a bunch of my internal processes.

We also used this as an excuse to buy new silverware… and by silverware I really mean stainless-steel-ware because it is not like we are the “good silver” type.  I am getting used to not eating on a mishmash of seven different patterns that we have had since college, but it is taking some doing.  A few years back we standardized on one set of dishes and gave away the equally mishmash set of plates and cups and bowls that we got in college, and I guess it was time for us to do the same with utensils.  So we are now eating with the best forks target can buy!  Well not exactly… there were apparently ritzier sets available.  The whole experience is just strange… its like I have to reroute how I exist in the kitchen now and it is taking some getting used to.  One of the themes that you can catch running through the blog is that “bel doesn’t handle change well” so… it will take a few weeks before I really can tell you if I like it or not.

Crusader Weekend


I spoke a little bit about this one but on Friday night I got carried hard in Diablo III.  On the night season 5 opened, several of us ran around together as a group… but one of that group has eclipsed the rest of us by a huge margin.  On Friday night my friend Carth was nearing 500 paragon levels, and I am almost certain that by the time I am writing this today he is probably around 600 given his meteoric rise.  Me however… I was sitting at only around 10 paragon when I joined the madness that was our leveling binge.  Over the course of roughly three hours I got drug up in level to a point where I was actually somewhat functional.  During that time I pieced together what was a pretty damned good set of gear, and Saturday morning I managed to wrap up the last few requirements for the season 5 chapter 4 rewards.  At this point you can check out the particulars on my Diablo 3 profile, but there are still a handful of things that I am working on upgrading.  Damai linked me this build and I am following it to some extent, but there are some places where I plan on diverging… namely on the choice of weapons.

There is no world where I would ever use the pig sticker with its constant squealing.  The entire point of using it, is to have a fast attack speed… and technically my current sword already has a faster attack speed than the pig sticker.  Most of the weekend past Friday night was about me figuring out just what I could do on my own.  I can solo Torment VIII pretty easy, but it is slow enough going that for bounties I have decided to just stick to Torment VII as they go so much faster.  While recording the double AggroChat this weekend, I managed to do one full circuit of Torment VII bounties and while I added a few paragon levels I didn’t really get much loot to write home about.  At some point I plan on trying to solo more greater rifts to increase my blood shard count, but right now I have done through level 30 without much issue.  I really hate doing timed events… they just bring out all of the horrible anxieties in me, so in truth greaters are not exactly my favorite thing to do in the world.

Rhino Prime

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The other big happening of the weekend is the fact that I managed to finish up both my Rhino Prime and my ArchWing.  The only problem is that I have a silly amount of things that now need leveling.  I still have not capped the Lex sidearm, or my Drakgoon, Boltor, Latro…  or even my Dual Skana.  The frustrating thing about all of that is that I really don’t know how best to level them.  This is one of those games where I really like running around with other people and playing it…  but have not really enjoyed soloing much at all.  So whenever I had a “solo” moment this weekend, I fired up WoW and did Garrison stuff or popped into Diablo 3.  I need to sort out a solid and reliable way for leveling, and I thought just maybe it would have been a low level survival mission.  While I got lots of loot from it… I didn’t exactly get lots of levels and only managed to put four levels on the Rhino frame.

I am in this strange state of limbo where I think I might want to like Warframe more than I actually like it.  I absolutely enjoy playing with my friends, but unfortunately without also playing it solo… I am falling massively behind.  The friends who are really super serious about playing this game… are playing it all of the time as their primary game right now.  Which means I will always be behind in my ability to actually help them out in missions.  It gets frustrating sometimes when you realize you are being carried hard… and there isn’t much you can do about it.  I was slow abandoning the bow, and as a result I am struggling to play catch up with my other weapons.  The bow is this awesome solo weapon…. but pretty useless for group activity.  The problem there is that I feel like the non-bow weapons are less useful for soloing… so when I am stuck going through missions by myself to level them it feels like a sub optimal experience.  So as a result… I really didn’t play much warframe this weekend because I am still sorting out my feelings about the game.

Literal Pay to Win

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Actual Pay to Win

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One of the bogeymen of the MMO industry for years has been the concept of “Pay To Win” or the fear that those with the most money can end up with the best stuff.  The cycle of what makes an MMO has been right or wrong built on this illusion of a meritocracy.  The general idea being, that if you work hard and get really good… you can have the best items in the game for your efforts.  The problem with this is that it in itself has always been a lie.  Last night I spent several hours hanging out with friends playing Diablo 3, and during that time I simply was along for the ride… getting carried so unbelievably hard that during greater rifts I was gaining a paragon level damned near every-time my friend Carth killed something.  Nothing about this situation is me actually having any real merit, but instead was a situation of I knew someone who was willing to drag me along for fame and glory while at the same time increasing their own magic find chances.  The same has always been the case with raiding in general, that it is more about who you have an “in” with and that can get you into this or that raid… rather than pure skill.  However these games are built under the pretenses that these obstacles need to be there in order to maintain the social order, and keep the gamers from rioting.

In the past when there has been even an hint of “Pay To Win” there have been riots in the streets.  The problem being that, there are many games right now with ways to shortcut your way to victory.  Granted in many cases they don’t take you all the way there, and you still have to do a lot of things to truly catch up.  It has become perfectly acceptable for games like World of Warcraft or Everquest II to sell character boosts, that allow you to jump instantly to an end game equivalent level and be decked out in equivalent gear, saving you the time of actually leveling.  So the question is… why is this acceptable but it is not acceptable to sell armor and weapons?  I’ve been mulling over these questions while playing Warframe over the last few weeks.  The truth is… that game is absolutely a pay to win scenario.  If you were to spend multiple thousands of dollars on that game, you could in theory have the absolute best in slot gear for every single frame.  The funny thing is that while I know this is the case… it doesn’t actually hinder my enjoyment.  I don’t feel like I am somehow being robbed of my experience, but instead I know in the back of my head there is always an out… if I ever get down a path that ends up being too grindy.

Money for Time

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“Pay to Win” in the case of Warframe is a bit of a misnomer, because in the purest sense that would mean you are getting something with your money that no one else can get without stepping up to the plate and spending an equal amount.  There are lots of games with lootbox grab bags…. and these always seem super insidious to me…  I am looking at you Rift and your mounts.  Warframe however just feels honest about it.  You can farm a planetary boss over and over until you get all three parts of a Warframe to drop… and then purchase the equivalent blueprint off the market for in game credits, or you can just bypass the entire process and pay 200-400 platinum to have it in your grubby hands right then and there.  You are paying to speed up time…  because there is the act of actually grinding the components… and then gathering up the materials through running missions on planets.  Finally there is the actual time of crafting the thing.  Each of the three sub components take about 24 hours to craft, and then the final Warframe craft takes between 2 and 3 days depending on if it is a normal or a prime frame.  So if you absolutely have to have something right then and there…. you can pay a premium to get it delivered into your hands.

What I find more interesting though is just how thriving the secondary market is when it comes to purchasing items.  There are so many things that you can trade in this game, and for almost every single one of them there is a secondary market.  Players are limited to a specific number of trades per day, but you can often times find what you are looking for in the secondary market for prices cheaper than the official shop.  So while you can’t actually buy the Prime Rhino Warframe from the shop right now, you can find a player that has collected the four component pieces and essentially pay them platinum for the act of farming it for you.  So the cycle is interested, in that those who have the time to run missions over and over to farm up complete pattern sets….  can easily turn that time into money.  The folks who don’t have the time, but can afford to spend some money… can turn that money into the resources that help them play the game more efficiently.  It is far from a utopia, but it is nowhere near the apocalypse that most MMO players would predict.

Two Way Street

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I think the key to this feeling overall “fair” is the fact that it is absolutely a two way street.  There are lots of times in MMOs where the “house” steps in the middle and offers a not entirely fair deal to both sides of the equation.  For example in the case of the World of Warcraft token… it is not literally a case of one human selling a commodity to another human.  Instead there is an algorithm in the middle, that buys tokens from players for a floating amount of in game gold… and then sells that token back to players who want to use it in lieu of subscription time.  The problem is… this formula takes human nature out of the equation, the thing that makes the whole experience interesting.  In games like Rift and EQ2, that have direct exchange of subscription token to currency between two players….  the patient player can wait out the best possible deal.  There were many cases where I sat on a token for weeks until I found someone who absolutely had to have that token right then to continue their substitution, and wound up getting a premium for it.  Similarly I am sure there are players who took advantage of market surplus to stock up on tokens when they were cheap and ended up spending far less in game currency as a result.  The reason why that felt better, was that there were options… that you were not essentially dealing with a vending machine that took its on theoretical cut.

What I think I like the most about this situation in Warframe is that it feels like I have a lot of options.  I can go much more slowly and solo the planets trying to collect the items I need, or I can pester my friends to run it with me multiple times .  I could go to the aftermarket and hit the trade channel and look for the items I need to finish out a blueprint set.  Or if i am really desperate I can simply open my pocket book, but in all cases I have several different paths to the end goal, and as a result I don’t feel nearly as trapped as I often do in other games.  For example right now I would love to have a Moose in World of Warcraft, but the raid I have connections with… that can easily get me one… happens to run at the same time as we record AggroChat.  Do I want a moose because it is some status symbol, that somehow places me above other players?  God no… I just like collecting mounts, and I like the idea that it looks like a normal group mount but can also fly.  If I could plunk down money and pick that mount up on the store…  you can bet I would rather than trying to do the copious amount of social engineering it will actually take to get me that damned mount.  Warframe…. I can take either path.  I can work with friends towards a goal… or I can simply grease the wheels and get everything I feel like I want faster.  In truth…  I feel like we as players are far more scared of “Pay to Win” than is really warranted.



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Flak Cannon Time

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When it comes to playing Warframe I have quite literally spent almost 99% of my time playing the game…. in a full or partial group.  This greatly colors my feelings about the game, and in truth it has allowed me to play in a super inefficient manner.  Last night we had several group missions and then when Tam went to class and Ashgar went to bed…  it just kinda broke up and never reformed in spite of us having several people there.  Instead of grouping I opted to start working on some of the missions I had not actually unlocked, and I have to say…  I am pretty bad at this game.  At the very least my chosen play style is not exactly a solo friendly play style.  When I am playing my Excalibur with a Bow….  it works great, because I can sneak around and get a bunch of stealth kills.  However last night I was trying to level my Atlas with a Braton…  and the ability to stealth kill anything was non-existent.  In truth I feel like most of the problem is the fact that I have yet to really sort out how I want to mod anything.  At some point I need to spend an entire evening leveling mods, and deciding which ones work best with which weapons.

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On the positive side of things, I did manage to finish up all of the sub components of the Rhino Prime and now simply have to wait the 72 hours crafting time to get it.  I also managed to finish up the Drakgoon Flak Cannon last night, so I spent some time playing with that as well.  I keep calling it a Flak Cannon because it very much reminds me of the Flak Cannon from Quake 3.  At close range it can be fired like a shotgun, but if you charge up the attack it can be fired from a much longer range and still be effective.  I am digging it quite a bit… and managed to have quite a bit of good luck with it running some missions.  I still think that the Strun is probably a better choice for a charge in and sword damage playstyle like I tend to favor, which is something that Ashgar suggested.  For the time being I am having a blast with this weapon…. and yes that pun was intended.  The other thing I did last night was start building a Boltor rifle, to see if I like that as was suggested to me by Scarybooster.  I mean in theory I could have gone shopping for a Boltor prime, but I happened to have all of the crafting mats available to make one without really dipping low in anything.  I guess tonight I will give it a shot and see what I think about it.

Blade and Soul

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Right now the new hotness at least among the blogosphere seems to be Blade and Soul, which just launched this week.  In fact at this moment it seems like unless you are paying for the game, it is highly unlikely that you are going to actually get to play it.  My twitter timeline has been full of folks posting pictures of the insane queue times just trying to log in.  The other big problem that I have seen is that it seems like no one is actually playing on the same server.  I did a few quick queries and it seemed like everyone I know is playing on completely different servers.  I had no real interest in this game prior to launch, and honestly….  there isn’t much about it after launch that interests me.  That said…. since it is a freemium game I have this overwhelming desire to at least give it a shot.  I have to admit I have some pretty severe biases against Korean MMO art styles.  There is just something about the art aesthetic that annoys me…  the cloyingly pretty men, and the insane “Jessica Rabbit” style women…  its just not my thing.

The positive is that there is a Lalafell like race in Blade and Soul so I decided to try and focus instead on the maximum cuteness potential of that.  The problem there is…  it just isn’t as good as a Lalafell.  I created what I am dubbing Squirrelghast on the Old Man Cho server…. simply because I liked the name.  At some point if I end up liking the game I will try and sort out another server to roll on that actually has people I know.  The only negative is that I have yet to get any further than character creation because I end up getting dumped into a massive queue… and decided that I would simply rather play Warframe or Diablo 3.  It is my hope that over the weekend I will be able to get in and give the game a proper try.  The only thing I really know about it from clips is that it seems to be an MMO about the whole flying wire “crouching tiger hidden dragon” style of combat.  These movies never really appealed to me either, because they just felt so over the top silly to see someone calmly flying across the screen.  I’ve heard however that the localization job that Carbine did on this title was really damned good, and much like Final Fantasy XIV they slipped in a ton of cultural references.  If for no reason other than that… I kinda want to play it.  I really love the folks at Carbine and they seem to do a great job with the games under their care, so it is my hope that I will be charmed enough by the localization effort to overlook all the things I don’t care for.


Rhino Prime Incoming

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Secondary Market

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Once again last night I spent most of it running around with friends in Warframe.  At the moment this seems to be the new hotness among the AggroChat podcast crew, and I guess in part I am going to ride the bubble as long as it lasts.  I know like many games this one is likely to burst at some point, when either we enter the endgame grind….  or one of us tries to do something that the game doesn’t really allow for.  However in the meantime I am enjoying my space ninja action, and spent most of last night leveling “stuff”.  Another really important thing that I discovered yesterday was the trade market.  Now Tam and Ashgar had both been talking about the deals that they had been getting in trades with players, and I never really spent much time thinking about it…  that is until I realized that I was quickly becoming the only player without a prime frame.  In many ways the prime frames are just flat out better than a normal frame, and since I had already been laboring towards trying to get a Rhino, I thought maybe I would check out the potential of just bumping that up to prime.

Within a few minutes I was able to find a Prime frame for considerably cheaper than the price of the base Rhino frame on the game store.  So I guess in truth if you are willing to spend ANY money on the game at all…  you can pick up some bargains.  I know some of our crew have picked up really nice weapons…  and managed to get some freebie mods thrown in to fill out the rest of the trade window.  So for me in particular… last night was all about farming up the rest of the components I needed to craft my Rhino Prime over night.  Unfortunately when I checked in this morning I still have a few hours left to go on the build, and then 72 hours after that before I actually get to drive my frame around.  In the meantime however… I need to sort out exactly what I want to use for weapons on my stompy mech.  I love my excalibur, but there are just times where it does not seem well suited for some activities.  Mostly I feel like I need to have a solid backup for when running around like mad and slashing things with a sword is not necessarily the best idea.

Atlas Rising

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The other big activity of the night was to begin work on my Atlas frame, that I had picked up some time ago… but never spent much time working on.  For the time being I have it decked out in a Braton, those starter fist weapons, and a Lex pistol…. all pretty much for the purpose of leveling them since we were running low level content.  Early in the evening we were trying to make it through Phobos, and we ended up struggling quite a bit… so it forced us all to switch back to our “main” frames for the purpose of finishing up that planet.  However after that we shifted to doing low level defense runs which are pretty amazing for leveling stuff.  By the end of the evening Altas was hovering around 14 with the weapons I think in the 16-18 range.  The big draw right now of Atlas is the rock shield ability that I can also push forward as a ball of stone to bowl over enemies.  This was absolutely amazing for “wave clear” when the Grineer were stacked up in neat little columns.  Nothing yet has beaten the pure joy of hitting the giant “Nope!” button that is Excalibur’s Radial Blind, but this comes close.

I absolutely feel like an earthbender though, and there are several of the abilities I have yet to even play with… like the ability to summon rock golems to fight by my side.  The other takeaway of the night is just how damned awesome the Braton is.  I was looking for a good light machine gun, to give me that almost destiny  like feel… and that really does it.  I also plan on building a Latron soon, because several other members of my team have had good luck with that.  From the sounds of it… the Braton is more of an Auto Rifle in Destiny terms, and the Latron would be something more like the Scout Rifle.  Both are weapons that I really enjoy, but for vastly different purposes.  The only thing I wish this game supported was the changing of loadouts while in a mission.  Because sometimes you hit situations where your weapons are just ineffective and it would greatly improve the experience to be able to swap things up planet side.  Maybe there is a way and I just have not found it, but in any case…  because I don’t think I can do it… it makes me pick more generalized builds so that if my primary is ineffective, then my secondary will work as a backup.  Regardless… I am still very much enjoying myself and looking forward to getting to play with a Prime frame.


Banking and Bosses

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Busy Morning

Trying to knock out a really quick blog post, because if I don’t right now I am not entirely certain when I will get the chance.  Both my wife and I are off today for the holiday, and as a result we have tried to schedule as much as humanly possible to do today.  Largely this means finally getting in to talk to the bank about refinancing our loan.  Adulting is frustrating and horrible… and hopefully it will go smoother than I have made it out to be in my head.  In a perfect scenario we will be able to do this without much hassle.  In theory it should only really be a case of someone from the bank coming to look over the house and appraise it, and after the recent renovations that should go a hell of a lot more smoothly.  I mean we have a relatively new roof and very new siding, so the house has looked better than it has in years.  All of that said… there is still so much anxiety for me anytime you are dealing with finances and banks and such.

After that I have this feeling that we are going to run around looking at dish washers.  For whatever reason… it is suddenly a big deal to my wife that we have a non-functional dish washer.  Don’t get me wrong I understand, I hate washing the dishes but for reasons entirely different from probably hers.  When you are 6’4″ they simply do not make a sink that is comfortable to stand at, and by the time I finish washing dishes my back is killing me from stooping over the sink.  Why it is suddenly a crisis is the part that I am not quite understanding, because the thing has been dead for several years now.  All of that said…  if she wants a new dishwasher we are getting a new dishwasher.  I know she has looked at a couple of them, and I know she wants my input…  but basically whatever one she wants I am completely happy with.  I just hope this one I can actually figure out how to use…. because the last one…  every time I seemed to run a load of dishes something horrible went wrong.

Boss Farming

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It was fairly late by the time I finally filtered downstairs and got set down, and by then a bunch of my friends were in Warframe so I decided to join them.  We spent the next hour and some change farming a boss mission trying to get myself and Thalen the last pieces of the Mag Warframe that we needed.  Unfortunately…  we didn’t have much luck.  It seems that through killing planetary bosses you have a chance of getting parts to drop to a specific type of warframe.  The boss in question was at the end of Mars, and drops all three parts of the Mag frame.  I am not really sure why we cared so much about it, other than the fact that we both had all but one part… and it was the same part we were missing.  I am in that same position with Rhino, and that is a mech I am far more likely to use.  But whatever the case we were wrapped up in the moment of killing stuff for loot, and I have to say… we walked away with a bunch of awesome stuff.

If nothing else… it was a great source of the various crafting materials needed to create mechs.  There is a single piece that I am missing for a couple of helmets that I will need to track down at some point.  I also had plenty of materials to craft a bunch of weapons, including two new swords, a new bow, and a set of fists for me to use on my Rhino frame.  Right now I am really liking the moment to moment feel of this game, and it seems to be the ideal drop in and hang out type co-operative experience.  The question will be how long it takes for one of us to get super serious about the game, because this feels like the sort of game that is fun to play casually… but deeply frustrating to play seriously.  There is one mission type that I absolutely hate, and that is the sneak up and capture the target type mission.  I never can seem to get in close enough to them to keep from triggering them to make a run for the escape vessel.  Then when they start running… I am simply not fast enough to take them down before they get away.  There is one mission that I tried four or five times yesterday and never seemed to be able to finish successfully.  Other than that mild frustration… I am enjoying pretty much every other mission type I have done.

Week in Gaming 1/17/2016

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weekingamingIt has been awhile since I have done one of these, and of the various failed columns that I have tried over the years…. I think this one is the best for me personally.  Sunday is a rough day in general, in part because I wake up and have to finish up AggroChat and get it out to the various locations.  As a result it helps to have a fairly formulaic option I can lean on when I am not feeling super inspired.  As a result I am leaning once again on the Week in Gaming series just to talk about a bunch of stuff I played this week.

Pax South Hype!


I am starting to get super excited for Pax South.  Last year I had various companies ask me for a business card, and I was somewhat kicking myself for not having any.  I mean I guess part of me never really thought that having a business card for a blog and podcast was a good idea.  This year however I have gotten my ass in order and if everything works as intended the cards will arrive at the beginning of next week.  I only ordered 250 because I could not in any circumstance think of a reason why I would need that many.  The design was done by Rae and was originally intended to be our Pax Prime cards, but since we were denied media access to that convention they never actually got made.  I resurrected the idea because I thought it was pretty slick.  In the original design each of the hosts has their own color, and given that I love green I latched onto that one.  As far as a back design I went with something simple because I felt like it needed something on the back….  and in truth that is the crux of our thing…  daily posts, weekly cast.  If you are also going to be at Pax South let me know, I would love to meet up with everyone that I can while I am there.


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I have some mixed feelings about Undertale so far.  On one level I really like the game and it feels like something that is going to be an interesting experience.  The negative is I absolutely HATE the combat system.  I hate mini-games, and while I was corrected last night on the podcast…. I am sorry but that isn’t a real combat system.  Part of me just wants to run away from every single fight so that I don’t have to do it.  I mean granted I was using arrow keys and maybe that makes it worse than it actually is, but I just hate the concept of breaking out of an otherwise fun old school RPG style game….  and having to deal with move the heart to avoid shit.  For now I have essentially abandoned the game, in the hopes that some distance will in fact make the heart grow fond.  Essentially I love everything else about the game… other than the combat system.  This might be one of those games that is more enjoyable to watch.

Victor Vran

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I’ve already talked about this game quite a bit throughout the week but I feel like it still deserves additional mention.  The only negative about this game is that I started playing it essentially the week before a bunch of other things that I wanted to play happened.  My hope is that once the recent infatuation with Warframe and Diablo 3 Season 5 have calmed down, I can return to this and play my way through the main story some more.  I really want to see what multiplayer feels like in the end game experience.  Playing it was fine for me… but essentially locked the other players that I was dragging along with me… out of some of the experience of interacting with the voice floating around in your head.  If you are not partaking of the Diablo 3 Season 5 madness…. and still want a ARPG fix… I highly suggest you check it out.


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This game….  is so good and I am kinda kicking myself for never really giving it a proper attempt at playing.  I have downloaded this game numerous times in the past on the PC, PS3 and PS4 when I saw other folks in my various social media timelines talking about it… but never actually tried it.  I guess in my head I had this absolutely misrepresented as to what sort of game it was.  With a super generic name like Warframe… I kept getting it jumbled up with the other game Warface.  Warface being a super generic Call of Duty/Counterstrike style PVP shooter.  So in my head I equated Warframe to a PVP experience… not this deeply nuanced cooperative PVE experience.  There are so many aspects of this game that remind me of an MMO, but not necessarily in the traditional sense.  The game as a whole feels like this amalgam of Destiny, Phantasy Star Online and Tribes.  If that combination sounds like something you would be interesting, I highly suggest you check it out.  I think I was largely luckier than most in that one of the freebie mechs, the Excalibur is right down my alley.  I am slashing everything with my space ninja ways, and really enjoying myself.  For those curious, I have pretty much set down roots on the PC, and while I might give it a shot later on the PS4, I have no real intention of moving at the moment as the AggroChat crew seem to all be playing it.

Diablo 3

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The floodgates for Diablo 3 Season 5 opened on Friday at 7pm and from that point until 10:30 or so my time I was running around in a group leveling like mad.  At this point I have managed to get to 68, which puts me behind the curve of folks like Grace that are 70 with over 150 paragon levels.  That however is fine by me, because I am just happy I am almost to the cap with at least one character.  I am going to be interested in seeing what the various challenges are that unlock the various seasonal rewards.  What makes the season play so addictive to me is the fact that it mimics a MMO launch.  Everyone on your friends list for a period of time is playing Diablo 3 and excited about it, as though they were playing a brand new game.  So you have a few weeks of focused play, and then don’t feel guilty at all when you shift back to playing other games until the launch of the next season.  This focused excitement is really fun to experience, and this is technically my third season so far.  There is part of me that wishes I had gotten on board with the concept earlier.  My goal today is to finish up my Crusader and then probably focus on some more Warframe.  Hopefully all of you readers out there have had an equally fun week, and Pax South seriously could not get here soon enough.