Regularly Playing: May Edition

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I had a realization over the weekend as I stared at my sidebar…  that it has been a significant amount of time since I last did the regularly playing thing.  The last one I was able to find was on October 3rd of 2016…  some 210 days ago.  I may or may not have completely fallen off the wagon on this concept.  The original intent was to take a moment once a month to “true up” the side bar and shift out what I was no longer playing for what I was currently playing.  As a result we are going to see some significant moving and shaking in the list as a result.

To Those Remaining

Final Fantasy XIV

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I am still going fairly strongly in Final Fantasy XIV, and while I might not log in every night I am logging in multiple times a week.  I am definitely still making the Tuesday night raid thing, and while we don’t always make progress each week we get together to do something.  Thanks to the wonder of cross server grouping we have been able to pull in our friend Kelesti into some stuff as well.  Largely we are all in a big holding pattern until the release of Stormblood which comes in July, and as a result I am still in the middle of my “level everything” binge.  Right now my Machinist is just shy of 40, and that leaves Astrologian the only thing that has yet to be touched.  The whole purpose behind all of this madness is so that I can purge my vault of anything at minimum sub 30… and the grand hope is to sort through anything sub 50 and be extremely judicious in what I choose to keep.  Still having a lot of fun in Palace of the Dead, just have had other distractions of late.

To the Returning and New

Skyforge

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This is one of those games that has not graced my sidebar in a very very long time.  In July of 2015 I played quite a bit of the game around the time that it launched, and while I enjoyed it… it always felt like it was missing something.  Apparently October of last year an expansion released that added in pretty much all of the features that I am finding myself enjoying now.  Additionally the game just works better with a controller than it ever did with a keyboard and mouse and while I returned primarily on the PS4… I am also dipping my toes back into the PC experience as well.  Both are extremely fun and I am not entirely sure how long I will be splitting time before I officially pick one platform.  Whatever the case if you have ever played this game I highly suggest checking it out.  It has some issues… namely you are limited to three classes at the start with no clear path to add new ones.  However each of the classes is doing something somewhat unique which makes them more enjoyable than the standard Tank, Mage and Healer that they represent.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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There are two things that are shocking about this game gracing my list.  Firstly that apparently I never actually made a “now playing” widget for it, and secondly… that I am back playing it again.  I blame a sequence of nostalgic events happening at exactly the same time…  all of the hype about the next Star Wars movie, the love of Rogue One, and my deep enjoyment of Mass Effect Andromeda has lead to an upwelling of love for both Bioware and Star Wars.  As a result I have returned to an old mission, which is trying to level through all of the class stories.  I managed to finish off the Sith Sorcerer and am now through Hoth so far in the Imperial Agent.  It seems as though I picked one of the best storylines for last, and even though I am not traditionally a stealthy/shooty type class…  there is something extremely awesome about this one.  I largely went Sniper because my Smuggler on the other side of the fence is Sawbones/Healer.  I am having a blast right now, so I am going to ride the enjoyment until it lasts.  The goal is to push forward into the story I have not touched on my Jedi Knight main after finishing the Agent story…  which involves Shadow of Revan, Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne.

Horizon Zero Dawn

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I do not normally put many single player games on the regularly playing list, but we have this sequence of amazing ones being released in short order.  One of those is Horizon Zero Dawn, which is a game that I hit hard at launch… and then for whatever release lost momentum to Mass Effect Andromeda.  As a result I have been slowly playing it here and there as time and desire allows.  I could force myself through the story, but I want to play it when I want to play it… and that is right now involving the occasional hour long session of hunting giant robot dinosaurs rather than pushing forward the main story.  I am still very much enjoying the game, but I need to find some catalyst that really gets me back into it and dying to play the next chapter.  In the mean time however I am still enjoying the “bowplay” if I can coin that term.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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This is very much another “as desire hits me” sort of experience.  When the game came out I picked it up on the Wii U and in the time between then and now I have managed to pick up a switch effecting starting back at square one.  This stalled my progress a little bit but for the most part I have returned to where I left in the Wii U and am once again moving forward.  I have designs on starting to take this to work and playing a little over lunch and on break times.  While I have the switch I really have not done a lot of handheld play with it remaining largely docked upstairs so I can play it with the pro controller.  It is a great game and in spite of having a lot of things that frustrate me about the game… is yet another in a long list of titles contending for my game of the year bid.

To Those Departing

World of Warcraft

While I still have an active account, I am just not really playing at all.  I logged in shortly after the last patch and got bored and logged out again.  I fell off the raiding bandwagon about halfway through Nighthold, and honestly just sort of reached the point I have in so many other expansions.  I think in theory I could come back and play casually and enjoy the experience but there are just simply too many other things I would rather be playing right now.  So as a result this is going to find its way off my side bar, but I did have the forethought to simply comment it out rather than remove it because I am sure at some point around Blizzcon time I will get hit by the bug once more.

Rift

Much like with Nightmare Tide… I just failed to gain traction with the latest expansion the Starfall Prophecy.  A large part of my struggle with Rift is that I can never seem to find a warrior spec that I really like anymore.  What I ultimately want is a juggernaut for doing PVE/Leveling content that can burn through the mobs with nonexistent downtime.  If I ever find that spec again I will return to the game and happily finish up leveling.  The other huge struggle is that the game lacks a reliable current font of knowledge.  The forums in theory have a lot of the information but it is this blend of current information and ancient and no longer reliable, and I just lack the mental fortitude to sift through it.  I am hoping that after writing this… Muspel or PK will come to the rescue once again with a viable Warrior build like they have in the past.  The other huge challenge with Rift is the fact that none of my gaming infrastructure is playing the game, nor do any of my regular suspects have any interest in the game at this point.

Destiny

It hurts more than a little bit to be adding this game to this space on my list.  The truth is I am just not playing it right now and I don’t see that changing for the foreseeable future.  I have too many other games fighting for my attention, and while I absolutely know I will be returning with Destiny 2…  the amount of stuff that I can do solo or want to so solo is pretty limited.  At this point it feels like I would be working towards something that is ultimately going to disappear.  I also have a lot of questions because as it is right now… I am looking at making the leap to PC from PS4 for the second game… and I am not sure what if anything might transfer.

Guild Wars 2

Adding this one to the list really doesn’t take a lot of effort.  I was only into this game so long as some of my friends were actively playing it.  Once Tam and Ash and Kodra faded away… so did I.  It is still not my favorite game but I have developed a certain appreciation for it.  Most of what it is doing however isn’t really all that interesting to me.  I largely got to play along with my friends only because I had maxed out my Warrior soloing for ages without them.  He was geared and ready to go… and will still be there if it ever has a resurgence.  Much like Warframe this is a game that was not ultimately for me…  but somewhat enjoyable so long as I was playing with friends.

 

 

 

 

Twitter GOTY “Poll”

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Last night was a bit of a rough night, because we had a massive storm blow through.  A side effect of the storm was the fact that about 11:30 my wife woke up on the couch because something dripped on her foot.  In the middle of our living room, dripping from one of the beams was a slow trickle of water.  At that point there really isn’t much to do other than put down a towel and a bucket and hope it stops.  However that sort of ruined any thoughts of a really solid nights sleep.  This morning I had originally intended on writing about a rather hamfisted absurdist article that is making its way through my twitter circle, but in truth I am simply going to not deal with that today.  It reminded me of conversations that myself and Tamrielo have on a regular basis… but I also wanted to approach the topic with more grace than I probably have in me right now.  So instead I am going to answer a twitter poll in blog form.

While technically not a poll, it is definitely a thing that I thought looked interesting so this morning instead of tearing into discussions that I don’t really want to get into…  I started thinking back upon various years and trying to determine the games that mattered the most to me during that time.  Also I may or may not be applying a little “in retrospect” to a few of these choices, but that is also ultimately my prerogative.  I limited myself to only picking games released during a specific calendar year, but in many cases the true impact the game had happened much later.

2012:  The Secret World

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I really cannot say enough good about this game… from the perspective of someone just starting out playing it.  I’ve said an awful lot about this game over the years in three pages worth of blog posts… and probably some others that I failed to categorize correctly.  This often makes my “best games I am not playing” list whenever I compile one.  Functionally there are two vastly different game experiences…  the leveling game when you are digging through the story and trying to solve the mysteries of the world…  and the end game where you lose all creative freedom that you had while leveling.  The first game is phenomenal and something that I feel everyone should experience at least once.  The later…  is ultimately what caused us to quit and keeps me from reattaching to the game for any length of time.  However that said the ride is well worth it, and the game has some of the more interesting dungeons in MMOdom…  until you reach nightmare levels where everything sort of falls apart.  I am really looking forward to the re-release of the game under the Secret World Legends name… and hoping beyond hope that they can give me an experience to latch onto with both hands.

2013:  Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

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The impact this game has had on me and my friends is immeasurable.  Largely because it gave us a common ground in the form of an MMO experience that we all care about.  More than anything however it knows how to tell story in and interesting and serialized fashion, where the story arc from one expansion sets up the key players for the next.  This is also the only MMO that has ever sufficiently pulled off a surprise plot twist, and has done so many times…. and been willing to assault structures that I assumed were fixed and sacred to the game itself.  From August onwards in 2013…  my life pretty much belonged to Final Fantasy XIV until we slowly petered out when we ran out of things we were capable of doing.  However we came back and had a renaissance with the game that has continued to the present times with this still being the game we can all sort of agree on.

2014: Destiny

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This is another game that realized its ultimate impact on me long after the year it actually released in.  Destiny is a really important game to me for a whole lot of reasons.  Firstly it has amazing moment to moment gameplay and it is hands down the best feeling shooter I have ever played.  From the moment I heard about the world and the setting I was completely sold… and in truth this is the game that pushed me to buy my way into the current console generation.  I got my PS4 console the week the first PlayStation exclusive alpha was happening, and the little I played of it hooked me extremely hard on the concept.  Year one had a lot of problems, and I sort of picked at it like you might pick at the remains of a meal you know you are done with…  but just keep nibbling on.  I did return to paying regularly towards the tail end of the first year, so that I was primed and ready for the launch of The Taken King.  From Year Two on however I have been a dedicated acolyte of the world, and own it for both PS4 and Xbox One…  and am contemplating making the leap to PC version with the launch of Destiny 2.  The game still has some narrative problems, but it does not stop me one bit from enjoying it.

2015: Fallout 4

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I love Fallout as a franchise.  I still remember saving up the cash to buy the first one when we were in college, and I was completely hooked.  I am not old school enough to remember Wasteland fondly, but I have always been a fan of the whole post apocalyptic nukepunk genre.  So while I am listing this as my game for 2015…  it is a hype cycle that began long before and continues long after.  This is still the game I boot up when I am in a specific mood.  Similarly I have played Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas countless times, and Fallout 4 simply replaces those in succession.  This game is proof to me at least that I care far more about systems, and gameplay…  than I really do about the main narrative in a game.  In fact the only reason why I probably beat this game is because we chose this as our November/December AggroChat game club game for the tail end of 2015.  I would probably still be avoiding the main story… and still off on my own having adventures in my head….  which is in truth my preferred method of playing a game.  Just talking about the game has given me this huge urge to boot it up…  right now…  which would be a horrible idea considering I have to go to work.

2016: World of Warcraft: Legion

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I have to give a lot of credit here to World of Warcraft and the rebirth of the game that happened with the launch of the Legion expansion.  They took a game I thought I no longer really cared about, and was legitimately done caring about…. and turned it into an experience that I rabidly played.  I even managed to return to raiding and didn’t check out this time until we were a few bosses into Nighthold…  which is in truth way longer than I lasted in Draenor.  I’ve reached this point where I am not really playing the game or following it now… but the transformation that took place should nonetheless be honored.  They tried a whole bunch of new ideas that they admittedly borrowed from other games… but wove it together in a fashion that felt new and fresh.  Similarly I feel like it has to be said that they have done and continue to do a great job of managing patch cycles.  They finally broke the “three and done” mold that had happened with Pandaria and Draenor and by all accounts are still releasing interesting content.  I know at some point I will return and at the very least finish out the Legion flight meta achievement, but for the time being I am simply not forcing myself to play a game I am not super into.  Legion however is probably going to go down in history for me as their best expansion…  toppling what was previously my current favorite Wrath of the Lich King.

 

So now that I have given you mine… what are yours?  Feel free to post them in the comments section here… or join in the twitter poll.  I am curious to hear everyone’s thoughts.

 

 

 

 

Doom Therapy

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Yesterday was a bit of a frustrating day.  For some reason lately there has been this common theme for me at work.  That is getting pulled into projects that I have never touched before, and don’t even know the history of…  as a sort of troubleshooter in chief.  I apparently have this ability to break through the layers of urban legends and get at the heart of problems.  Largely this all centers on my ability to ask “why are you doing it that way?”… regardless of who happens to be in the room.  I am not mean spirited about it, but in truth what I am trying to do is separate out what is needed and adds value to the process and what is just extra steps that were put in for no apparent reason.  I mean I have worked in environments where I did not have access to the appropriate permissions, and in those environments you sort of make things work however you can.  A prime example is a process that I a digging into right now that involves going for seven hops between what is essentially an FTP drop directory and the actual directory the software loads data from.  I’m trying to peel back the layers of tradition and determine does each of these steps actually do something other than just adding more steps where a file can possibly get corrupted.  Also in this case the file crosses the operating system boundary at least four times which in itself is sort of problematic.

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There are days when I have had my fill of madness and simply need to watch the world burn.  Instead of ACTUALLY watching the world burn… I have a more healthy outlet in the form of video games.  The genre of choice during these days is some form of a shooter, and last night on a whim I decided to boot up the modern incarnation of Doom.  Now I have not spent nearly as much time in this game as it deserves, largely because it ran less than amazing on my previous system.  I mean it was workable but for a game that demands such fast paced action…  my old AMD FX-6300 process wasn’t really doing the job.  Now that I have this spiffy x99 i7 system it runs extremely smooth in both normal and vulcan modes.  In theory I should probably put this game on the SSD because it has quite possibly one of the slowest boot sequences that I have seen from any game.  Whatever the case it absolutely filled my need especially when it comes to “glory kills”, which allows you to rip the heads/arms/various other body parts off of demons when they are low health.  When you are deeply frustrated…  it helps a little bit to inflict massive amounts of digital carnage.

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After about an hour of “Doom Therapy” I was more than ready to strap back into the environmental suit and go exploring in Mass Effect Andromeda.  Last night I arrived at “Not-Tatooine” the obligatory desert world in the Andromeda galaxy.  I think  there is some unwritten rule that if you have an ice wasteland planet… you must then have a desert wasteland planet to balance things out.  The positive is that “Not-Tatooine” is way easier to traverse than “Not-Hoth” due to the lack of giant ice crevices that go on forever.  There are however giant sinkholes that seem to go on forever, but these seem easier to see than the crevices were.  One of the things that you have to know about me is… that essentially roads and paths in videos games don’t exist and I will try my damnedest to figure out how to wall hack my way into a place rather than trying to sort out which direction the game is intending me to approach.  This absolutely wrecks a lot of scripting that intends on players to arrive from a specific vector… and sometimes causes some hilarious moments of me unintentionally “sneaking” up behind guards.  As a result when you apply this instinct to Andromeda it means that I spend a not insignificant amount of time forcing my nomad to climb sheer rock faces by abusing boosts.

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The sad moment of last night unfortunately was when I decided that I should probably abandon my N7 tier 5 gear for something tier 6…  and as a result I wound up putting on a full set of initiative spearhead armor.  It has some perfectly reasonable if generic stats… but the key problem is that it just doesn’t look as cool.  I have yet to find a set of “new” gear that really looks cool… and have been relying on the Quarian themed armor that I got with the collectors edition and the various N7 armor sets that I have been able to scrounge up.  Apparently the Initiative only got to take the ugly armors with them to Andromeda… because all of the cool armor was needed to fight the Collectors and or the Reapers.  I have a massive influx of research points because quite honestly… none of the Helius cluster gear looks very cool.  I’ve never touched any of the Kett weaponry largely because they are ugly as sin, and while the Angaran weapons look a little better…. they are nowhere near as cool as the good old standbys from the Milky Way.  The look and feel of a weapon to me are as important as the function.  In theory what I should do is hang out next to one of the forward supply points and keep swapping weapons until I have tried out everything in my inventory before returning to my practice of mass deconstructing everything.  The inventory upgrades have given me some breathing room to be able to hold onto some extra items.

Dangerous Water

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

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

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

 

Random Screenshots #3

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This is another one of those mornings when I feel like I don’t have much of anything to talk about.  Work encroached upon my gaming time, first with a meeting that I did not get out of until 6 pm…  when I normally get out of the office around 4/4:30.  Second when I did get home I had a bunch of things that I needed to look into given that we are still ironing out the issues with a brand new website launch.  As a result by the time I finished up I largely just crashed on the sofa and watched some Black Mirror as I had not touched season 3.  That show is extremely creepy, but also something that I cannot really stop watching.  It is a sort of technological tales of the crypt, and if you have never watched the show…  be prepared for some disturbing content.  That said it is still very much worth your time and the latest season has at least one gem scattered among the digital nightmares in the form of the San Junipero episode.  Anyways this morning is going to be a random screenshot post morning because I am not sure what else to really talk about.  I am still fairly groggy and probably shouldn’t have finished the 4th episode last night, and instead just headed on to bed.

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I am not entirely certain of the context, but this is of course a screenshot from Wildstar.  I believe it is from the moon mission where you have to figure out what happened to all of the miners.  Even though I have long struggled to really click with this game, I cannot deny how much of an interesting vision it really is.  The art direction was on point and everything feels like it exists in the same shared technicolor delusion.  For whatever reason I never really liked how spastic their flavor of hotbar combat felt.  Most recently I paid a little money to be able to create a Chua Warrior and I found it enjoyable…  but still not really clicking as hard as I would have liked.  Honestly this game and Guild Wars 2 sort of exist in the same space for me…  where they are equally interesting to visit but not exactly the same of place I want to call home.  I will say though that the people who do play the game regularly are amazing and I am super happy to have a whole bunch of them occupying my social media streams.  This is one of those games that I root hard for…  just from a distance.

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We go from a game that I don’t really get fully, to one that I absolutely do…  but still don’t end up playing that often.  I believe this screenshot is from one of the opening shots of Makeb which was the sequence of content I last played during a December 2015 binge of the game thanks to Force Awakens Star Wars hype.  I honestly thought I would similarly return during the Rogue One hype machine but it never actually materialized.  I realize I am missing so much great content, and I keep saying that one of these days when I hit a lull in whatever other games I happen to be playing that I will swoop back to Star Wars the Old Republic and gobble up all of the goodies I have missed.  I still have yet to start any of the Shadow of Revan content…  let alone Fallen Empire or Eternal Throne.  I did have an active sub, but I let that lapse at some point…  they keep roping me in with offers of “subs get X shiny bauble” and then I never actually end up playing.  I should in theory pop back in before this last bit of sub time lapses and I am stuck playing in freemium hell.

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On to yet another game that I have really fond memories of but never end up playing.  This is I believe a screenshot from one of the betas for The Secret World.  To the best of my knowledge this was me creating my very first character.  To be truthful I never was a huge fan of the character creation system in TSW, as it always felt like I never could create exactly the character that I wanted to create.  However on so many levels I loved this game, but the biggest problem is attempting to return to it.  Since you can repeat almost every quest it becomes extremely hard to see just what you have completed and what is new and something you should focus on.  When they release an issue I find it hard to actually track down all of the things that have been added and given that I last actively played during “Last Train to Cairo” which was issue number six… and they are currently on fifteen there is a ton of content I have missed.  I just find it extremely hard to get back into the game after being gone for so long…  and given all of the systems that they have seemingly loosely tacked onto the base experience.

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I don’t have an awful lot to say about this screenshot other than I thought it looked cool, so I decided to post it.  This is of course from Farcry 3 Blood Dragon, which is this insane 80s movie romp.  If you took every 80s sci-fi film and distilled it to its campy roots, then dumped all of that pure essence in a blender…  you wind up with Blood Dragon.  If you have never checked it out, you probably really should given that it regularly dips down into the $5 territory.  It is a completely stand alone experience and does not require Farcry…  nor does it really have anything to do with the Farcry Franchinse at all other than modeling some of the open world roaming gameplay.

 

Be The Battery

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

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

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

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

Wildlands

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

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

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

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

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

Flawless Royal Warlock

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

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

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

Exotic Towels

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

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

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

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

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

Finding the Forge

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

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

The Forge Trick

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

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

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