Bel’s Fake Game Awards

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This break has been a bit of an odd one…  namely because I have completely screwed up a few times and failed to blog.  Even worse… I forgot I forgot to blog.  It is as though I have been in a bit of a weird time warp where I lived a bit separate from the rest of the world for awhile.  So instead of being connected like I usually am…  everything has just sort of flown over the top of me without ever really sinking in.  I have not been logging into MMOs hardly at all… and when I did it was for a specific focused purpose rather than just hanging out there.  The break has been about falling into a number of game shaped holes…  including Destiny, Minecraft, Bloodborne, and most recently Tyranny.  However today represents the beginning of me trying to get into the swing of things.  I technically have two full days left…  well not full given that its 9 am when I am finally getting around to writing this morning.  However it is time for me to do my sham of an attempt at an Awards Show…  that I started last year, where the categories really don’t exist and no one actually wins.

Something Is Missing

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Pokemon Go

Recently in the name of better health and that whole tradition of trying to start the New Year off right…  my wife and I have been spending a lot more time walking.  One of the things I greatly miss that was a huge part of my life during 2016… is Pokemon Go.  One of the updates essentially screwed me over and locked me out at least semi-permanently from playing the game.  The Google Safety check… seems to think my phone is rooted even though it is not.  My only work around is to actually root my phone and install one of the many applications that will hide root from Pokemon Go…  defeating the entire purpose of their safety check.  However I am reaching a point where I really want to play the game… and I might just resort to this.  Essentially this game was a good chunk of my year… or at least I was obsessive about it for two months.  Pokemon Go did something that no game really has…  made me care about mobile as a gaming platform and as a result it should get a significant shout out.

You Can’t Go Back

Diablo 2
Diablo 2

For the AggroChat Game Club, we tend to pick a game for both November and December…  since once you take the holidays into account… you really have a single functional month.  Last year the game that spanned the two was Fallout 4, and this year Grace chose Diablo 2 as her pick.  At first I was all about this because I have some seriously rose colored lenses about this game and my memory of it.  I remember trying to see who could get through all of Act V in a single lunch break, and so many farming runs to see if we could get the coveted set pieces.  However on replay…  I have changed drastically in my tastes since this game released, and while I was on the Diablo 3 doesn’t feel right bandwagon initially…  I have evolved.  Diablo 2 now feels like a grindy mess of a click fest with very little carrot and a hell of a lot of stick.  So I am honestly wishing I had NOT replayed the game…  and could leave it sitting happily in my memory untouched.  My recent experiences…  are proof of that adage that sometimes you can’t go back home.

But Maybe Sometimes You Can

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World of Warcraft: Legion

Saying that however… there are apparently times when you can go home and enjoy yourself in the same ways you used to.  There was a period of time when I was convinced that Warcraft would always only tangentially matter to me.  That I mourned a time and a place and a specific group of people that were long going and could likely never been aligned and arranged in the same pattern again.  I’ve devoted a lot of digital ink to this lament throughout the years…  and then Legion comes along and proves me to be completely full of shit.  I am not exactly sure what it is about this expansion but for the first time in seven years…  I feel more hope for the game ahead of me… than nostalgia for the time that has long passed.  I thought I was done raiding in World of Warcraft… and instead I am actively raiding three times a week…  one night of progression, one night of farmed content, and an amazing karazhan team.  I am super happy with the state of the guild, and the game… and how far we have come.  I am amped about the prospects of starting Nighthold on time when it releases…  and while I have not spent much of this break in game it still very much feels like home.  While I still have issues with some of the disjointed feeling of the forced faction storyline at times in Legion…  the bulk of the content is amazing and just seems to keep getting more interesting.

But Sometimes It Doesn’t Last

Final Fantasy XIV
Final Fantasy XIV

The other subtext of the year is how I have apparently fallen out of love with Final Fantasy XIV.  We made an attempt to get the band back together and start raiding once more… and it worked amazingly for awhile.  Honestly the Free Company is still an active and happy place…  just with myself not really playing much of a role in it.  I keep thinking that it will be fun to return…  but I knew something was a miss when I started completely blowing off the holiday events that I used to love so much.  Now I am significantly behind in gear and in story… and it is going to take a significant push to catch back up.  This push however is just something that I have not been willing to do as of yet.  I am excited about Stormblood…  but nowhere near as much as I was prior to the launch of Heavensward.  I guess the scale of Heavensward felt limited… with two dungeons per patch instead of three, and that alone wore on me.  When you are grinding two dungeons in an expert tier… it gets super old really fast.  They have since added in other content to occupy time like the deep dungeon…  but it also feels extremely grindy in nature.  I know at some point I will return and happily do so… but in the meantime I have simply not been forcing myself to log in and play a game I was not entirely into.

With Guns Blazing

Destiny
Destiny

The real winner of the year as far as my total time spent… I feel is probably Destiny.  This game has gone from being something that never quite clicked…. to turning into a game that I obsessively play on an almost nightly basis.  Over the break I spent a good chunk of my time playing “Not-Wipeout” and participating in the Sparrow Racing League.  I managed to hit the currently light cap of 400, and instead of it diminishing my desire to play… it seems to have only spurred me on further trying to get infusion fodder to upgrade all of my favorite items.  I cannot tell you how much being able to bring my favorite weapons from Year 2… into Year 3 has improved the game for me.  Traditionally MMO items are just stat sticks with a look and a feel…  and cosmetic systems make it so that you can look however you want therefor really negating any need to keep using older items.  Destiny however…  your items have a feel and a purpose and greatly effect the gameplay.  I have guns that I love… that feel amazing to use… that I cannot actually quantify in words as to why.  For example I love the Fabian Strategy… even though I technically have far superior legendary items that don’t eat my single exotic weapon slot.  I just feel sorry for my friends who are casually interested in the game… because I go from zero to “let me show you my pokemans” in a frighteningly short amount of time.

Bad Christmas Was A Bust

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The Division

This time last year… I was looking forward to the impending launch of The Division.  I thought this game would end up being my new Destiny, and even better so because it allowed me to get the sort of gun play and looter shooter action I craved without having to resort to consoles.  Unfortunately that was not the case and I never actually made it to the level cap.  Going into Division I thought I would have a strong community to support me… but one by one my friends checked out quickly for a lot of reasons not directly connected to the game play.  Largely they objected to the themes… and enough so that at least one of them immediately turned around and refunded the game through steam.  I could have reached outside of my circle of friends and found new communities…  but I was left with the awkward situation that my PS4 clan was of course playing on that platform and that I just didn’t really want to have to pester folks to play with me on the PC side.  As a result I solo’d a hell of a lot… and reached a point where to progress at the speed I wanted to progress I needed some people with me.  There was also the technical problem that I just don’t really like playing a third person over the shoulder shooter nearly as much as I enjoyed playing Destiny.  Even more than that…  the thing that was missing was the futurism of Destiny weapons.  None of the guns felt any different than any other gun to me… so ALL SMGs felt the same, ALL LMGs essentially felt the same etc…  they were more stat sticks than something that felt unique or individual.  I still hold hope that at some point that I will be able to get back into the game and push the last bit to hit the level cap and start doing interesting content.

Awesome But Not My Deal

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Overwatch

Sometimes there is a game that I am way more into the game world… and the lore than actually playing it.  This is very much the case with Overwatch.  I love the characters, and all of the storyline that is coming out surrounding the game… and while I enjoy playing the game in small bursts it just never seems to be the game I choose to play on any given night.  As a result I am something ridiculous like level 6… and have only logged a few hours in total playing the game.  I think much like with League of Legends… I would enjoy playing with a team of friends… but then you run into the issue of getting bored with bots… and not having the chops or desire to learn them to play against other pre-made teams.  I also tend to be most happy when I am playing Torbjorn, but always end up playing Reinhardt or Mercy because I end up getting randomed into a team full of Hanzos and Genjis.  I wish I had the burning desire to play this game because I love everything about its world and what it is doing with its narrative.  In truth I find myself mourning the game it could have been…  back when it was originally slated to be a new MMO.  I would to play a Destiny like game… set in the Overwatch universe.

 

Regularly Playing

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Yesterday I decided to start “truing up” my “Regularly Playing” section of my hot bar.  This area has been through many changes throughout the years and the whole idea was just to let readers know what I am actually playing right now.  It originally started as me simply i-framing in the information from Raptr… but since I don’t actually use that server or any other equivalent games tracker that isn’t going to work.  I shift games quite often, and I wanted a way to indicate what games are currently “on tap”.  So this shifted from “Now Playing” to “Frequently Playing” and eventually wound up with the verbiage of “Regularly Playing”.  The goal now is to evaluate the list once a month and make adjustments to keep it “mostly true”.  I realize I am finger quoting a lot of shit in this post, but the truth is I come home and log into whatever seems enjoyable unless I have a specific activity planned that night.  Over time some stuff fades away and other games get added, so I thought as part of this process I would talk a bit about where I am currently in each game on the list, as well as a bit about any that I might have removed or didn’t quite make the cut.

Destiny: The Taken King

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I am still just irrationally enthralled by this game, though over the last week I have not played quite so much because I am starting to get back into MMOs once more.  This week has been all about Iron Banner, because I am trying my best to get my Hunter to Rank 5…  in spite of not being here for the weekend due to travel plans.  The major goal of the month was to hit 335 light and I have managed to do just that on the Titan, however I am still lagging on the Warlock and Hunter with the primary slot that they need the worst being literally any legendary quality artifact.  I need to sort out what I can do to get one of those because I have plenty of infusion fodder to feed into an artifact… they just have 320 blues currently equipped.  The only real frustration that I have with Destiny right now is that Bungie is apparently shit at math.  We were told that several activities would drop an item equal to your current light level of better.  However now sitting at 335, there are still a truly silly number of activities that drop 334 items.  From Challenge of Elders turn-ins last night I got both a 334 weapon and 334 arms, and from an exotic engram I got a 334 secondary…  all while showing up in game as 335 light.  This is pretty maddening since 334 is useful for infusion if you are desperate but what you want to see is 335s so you can bring up ALL of your gear to that light level.  Regardless I am still loving the game and I am hoping that the next big patch will address this problem.  Also hoping that when I get back from my trip I can finish the push to Rank 5 because I am roughly halfway to Rank 4 at the moment.

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

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This marks the second week of me being “back” at least as far as doing the Tuesday night raid content is involved.  I am still very much in “catch up” mode, but I am enjoying myself.  As far as downtime activities I have started the grind to get elemental crystals for the first Anima weapon, aka the Relic 2.0 or 3.0 depending upon how you are counting.  I am loving being Lala-Bel once more and I guess whatever funk I was going through that was keeping me from playing MMOs has passed because I am enjoying myself again.  I very much need to be doing a nightly Expert but that has yet to happen quite yet.  After yesterdays post however I found a whole slew of people willing to be tagged and pulled in for expert running.  Now I just need to get back from this weekend and get started on this proper.  Also apologies ahead of time for the nightmares that will be induced by the creepy-assed Calcabrina dolls.

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls

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Season Six is very much winding down to a close, and I have managed to accomplish pretty much everything that I could have hoped for… at the very least I got my additional stash tab.  I have friends who still have things to knock out to get theirs so I am very much in a help as needed mode.  That said I am still poking my head into the game on a regular basis to farm for Menagerist Goblins…. something I have yet to actually see.  The highlight of the season was something that I did not even realize was a thing until it dropped.  I guess the cosmic wings are among the rarest item this time around.. because it is RNG on top of RNG on top of RNG.  You have to get one of the rainbow goblins to show up… and then have to get it to drop the Whimsydale portal… and then have to get a specific mob to show up in there to get them.  In any case pretty much any time I get a Whimsydale portal I holler at anyone who happens to be on to come along with me now just in case they drop again.  I’ve made it way further this season than at any other time… the only thing I am not looking forward to is trying to merge my current seasonal bank into my non-seasonal bank once more.

Overwatch

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This is the newest addition to the list and also the one I have spent the least time playing.  This week was the official launch of Overwatch, and my friends list has been completely on fire about this game.  I played it enough in beta to know that I liked it, and then ceased to play it any further waiting for launch.  Now that launch is here however… I have all of these competing priorities.  The game is really good and so far I have yet to find a champion that I don’t like… pending I give them a serious chance.  I was largely diametrically opposed to D.Va largely because the mech looked like a killer whale mixed with a guardian mode veritech.  However after getting the carbon fiber skin from a loot box… and giving her a proper try I found out that I really enjoyed it.  The game is probably the best designed shooter I have played in a very long time.  The thing that is going to keep me from really sinking my teeth in however… is it has no PVE/Exploration gameplay like Destiny.  If I could have Destiny set in this universe with character progression and collecting awesome weapons…  I would be completely hooked.  This will likely always be a game relegated to the “once or twice a week” column for me largely because I am just not that competitive.  Earning loot boxes is a cool reason to keep playing, but eventually there will come a point where I run out of things I care about that came come from lootboxes.

World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor

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This is the backburneryist of backburner games for me right now.  I’ve gotten in the habit of logging in daily and collecting my free money from the garrison… especially now that I put a massive dent in my finances and bought the Grand Expedition Yak.  That said every now and then I do play one of the characters that I am still in the process of leveling.  I have this grand idea that it would be fun to roll into Legion with a full list of level 100 characters, however I somehow doubt that is going to happen… much the way as it has never actually happened during any of the other expansions.  However that said the alt of choice right now is my druid that I am slowly pushing up.  In truth I am in a holding pattern until Legion and largely not paying a ton of attention to the game in the meantime.

Things Removed From List

Elder Scrolls Online

The truth is the MMO Funk hit and I never really returned to playing this regularly.  I still very much want to, but it is going to need another lag in some other game for me to really sink my teeth into it.  The game that exists today is amazing and they have done a really good job of keeping the content fresh.  The biggest problem is I really don’t have anyone to play with over there on the North American server cluster.  Now if I were playing on the EU side… I know lots of active and happy guilds.  I would absolutely play with the Whitestar folks were that really a viable option.

Warframe

While initially interesting to me, this game just did not sink its teeth into me the way it did the rest of the AggroChat crew.  There is just something that I don’t like about it… and I have tried to reason out what exactly it was.  I still have an account and still have some cool stuff on it, so I might at a future date return to it, but it never really replaced my love for Destiny.

The Division

While technically it was never actually on the sidebar… it probably should have been.  I was all about The Division at launch and that excitement did not even manage to carry me through to the level cap.  I am sitting around level 26 and I am just not sure what is holding me back.  Largely the content at that level doesn’t feel nearly as interesting or rewarding as it did at lower levels.  The packs of mobs out in the world seem to be scaled for group play, and when you down folks… they don’t seem to be dropping anything interesting.  In theory I could hold my nose and grind through it… but what would  I be grinding for?  I am so far behind the curve in gear and it doesn’t feel like the game really gives you a lot of great options to catch up.  There has been a sequence of changes that I really didn’t feel like had me in mind.  At first I liked that it felt like you could progress through the game on many different vectors and end up at the same loot goal.  However the crafting material nerf really hurt that feel for me.  This is something I might return to later, once they offer some Destiny like catch up mechanisms to give players a hand up.

The Secret Stash

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Comfort Gaming

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One of the things I always have trouble sorting out, is what game I plan on playing during the AggroChat podcast.  Now there are casts that have a strict no gaming rule while talking, but I honestly think that would damage some of the discussion.  Essentially we are hitting record on conversations that naturally happened already on our voice chat server.  Part of that equation is the fact that we are talking while gaming, and for the last couple of weeks the game of choice has been Diablo 3.  I think partially it is that I know the season is coming to an end, and as a result it is fresh in my mind again.  The ultimate irony however is that I am not playing seasonal characters at all.  While recording two shows ago I ended up pushing my non-seasonal monk to 70 and last night I started working on trying to get my non-seasonal warrior from 60 to 70.  That would leave only my Wizard as being sub max level, which honestly…. I am considering giving another chance.  I am not a huge fan of finger wigglers… but after running with a lot of wizards over these last couple of seasons…  I have to say I see the charm.  They can simply melt anything that they come up against, and there actually is a semi melee range option that I would probably be able to stomach.

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The other thing that I tried my hand at this week was Path of Exile.  I find it shocking that the game has been out this long and I have yet to even really give it a shot.  The talent screen honestly scared me off a bit because it looked as complicated as the final fantasy x sphere grid.  However for some time my friend Carthuun has been talking it up, pretty much anytime we brought up Diablo 3.  It is entertaining and I feel like I could play it happily, but I have to say I was somewhat shocked how relatively difficult that it starts.  I mean it is not super hard, but you can’t simply mow through the mobs in quite the manner that you do in Diablo 3.  All this really means is it makes me realize just how watered down the latest Diablo installment really was.  The only disappointment was that there didn’t seem to be any sort of a real “knight” light character with a sword and shield in the manner of the Crusader in D3.  I ended up choosing the big brute character, and at some point I will probably try and go sword and shield.  I am not sure exactly how I am building the character yet because I have yet to get terribly far.

Pre-Patch Farming

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The majority of yesterdays game time was spent running around in The Division and attempting to farm crafting components.  At the current moment I have a decent stash of materials, or at least am in a better position than I was before I knew the crafting changes were coming down.  I am not super pumped about the patch, because it feels like it is taking the game in a less player friendly direction.  However that said I am still slowly making progress towards the level cap.  While running around yesterday I managed to ding 24, and encountered some areas that I had not seen yet.  The strangest of course was this marijuana farm that was nestled deep inside a building.  As the day goes on today my goal is to continue trying to level because I would really love to be able to participate in some of the big activities, but I am absolutely certain I will not hit the cap before the patch.  I am somewhat frustrated that it sounds like gearing is going to be harder for me, than it was for the folks who rushed the leveling process.  That however always seems to be the case… the first few you get to cap get easy epics, and those who level slowly have to struggle through the throttled drop rates.

 

Scattered Gaming

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This weekend was an odd one.  After a string of relatively nice weekends, we ended up getting one that was either cold and windy… or cold and rainy, both of which drove my instinct to stay inside and hibernate.  The only problem is… with all this play time I largely squandered it and spent more time staring without purpose at games… than actually playing them.  It feels like I am starting to go through another one of my “funks” because nothing seemed to fit “just right” as far as games go.  I flitted between lots of different titles, playing them for a bit before shifting to something else…  often times ending right back up in the game I started in.  For a good chunk of the weekend I had the desire to play Destiny…  but wanted to instead be hanging out downstairs which only left me the unofficial remote play app as a solution.  Then there were games that I felt like I needed to make progress in like Division where I am still not at the level cap.  Friday was largely devoted to Undertale, and I think after forcing myself to play that game… it maybe soured the rest of my weekend.  So this morning I thought I would run down some of the progress I made in various games.

Undertale

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I wrote about this at length but after hanging up my controller as it were… I opted to instead watch several of the different endings.  I still feel fine in my decision to just abandon this game in an undefeated state.  I guess I don’t have a primal urge to finish games, and more often than not I get to the ending and just don’t finish.  I reach this point where I have gotten out of the game what I wanted, and I don’t see the point in expending that effort to push it across the finish line.  In the case of Undertale the thing that was driving me forward was to understand the story, and now between the podcast and the various youtube ending videos… I feel like I do.  Once that carrot was gone, the game play itself doesn’t make me want to ever touch this game again.  On the podcast folks talked about ways to lower the impact of the mechanics, like the Temmie armor…  but that isn’t even really an interesting option to me.

Destiny

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I really did not do much in Destiny other than a little bit of Crucible.  I am constantly amazed at how much I actually enjoy player versus player content in this game, when traditionally that is just not my thing.  I think a lot of it is that in this game it feels like there is zero negative impact on the rest of the game.  It is just another option I have to play, and gives me the same sort of PVE rewards that I expect to receive elsewhere.  Other than specialty modes like Trials of Osiris it feels like I am rewarded equally for just doing whatever I happen to want to do at the time.  I started down the path of the crucible simply as a way to get more Legendary marks, and then recently when I was grinding out sword kills I came to realize…  I was actually legitimately enjoying myself.  What is great about the crucible is that I get the central game play loop that I enjoy of shooting awesome weapons and charging around… without zero downtime.  It seems like it is easier to get Three of Coins to proc on Crucible than it is while doing strikes… or it might simply be that Crucible itself is just about the perfect amount of time per coin use.  While I have not actually gotten any of the really cool PVP drops…  I do get a fair amount of strange coins, motes and random pieces of armor that end up getting deconstructed.  Tonight I will hopefully be finishing up the rest of the Kings Fall raid that we had to abandon on Oryx last Tuesday, and beforehand it is my goal to hang out upstairs and run some more Crucible.

The Division

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This weekend I managed to push Division a little harder than the rest of the games and caught up with my friend Tamrielo at least.  At the start of the weekend I was sitting at roughly level 20, and as of this morning I am just about a third into 22.  While I absolutely could play this and only give it partial attention at lower levels, as I have gotten into the twenties this is not really the case.  As a result this weekend I managed to die probably more than I actually managed to accomplish anything.  There are two missions that I know I attempted at least a half dozen times before finally giving it my full attention and pushing through.  My standard operating procedure while hanging out with my wife downstairs is that I essentially have one eye on the game and one eye on whatever we happen to be watching…  not literally but you know what I mean.  The problem with this is that in doing so I am not exactly paying attention to the best possible tactical spot that I could be in while shooting incoming mobs.  The addition of snipers really changed how the game works, and now that I have guys that rush me with shotguns as well..  I am having to be way more careful about how I take on content.  That said I feel like I made some decent progress, but most of it was in short bursts of me playing for thirty minutes to an hour… and then logging out and doing something else.  Thankfully much like Destiny… short batches of play time feel just as rewarding to me as multiple hour long sessions.

World of Warcraft

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The other major happening of the weekend was me poking around on my Forsaken Hunter in World of Warcraft.  Recently Blizzard added an achievement that you could unlock by leveling a character in WoW to 20, aka the free mode level cap.  For doing this you end up getting Lady Liadrin as an alternate Paladin hero in Hearthstone.  Not that I really play Hearthstone… and even more so… not that I really like playing Paladins in Hearthstone…  I have this drive to get the achievement and unlock the extra shiny bits.  The negative of this achievement is that it only counts if you have recently leveled to twenty after the launch of the achievement, that means my army of level 100s are doing me zero good for this goal.  As a result I opted to level something on The Scryers Horde side since that is where the bulk of my lower leveled characters are these days.  I largely played during the podcast on Saturday night, and as a result managed to get to I believe 18 before giving it up for the night.  The goal is to spend some time this week pushing it over the line, so that I at least can feel like I got this out of the way.  I honestly think this whole promotion is a brilliant idea to try and cross pollinate some of the players actively playing Hearthstone and get them to try World of Warcraft.  I know Hearthstone is a major nostalgia bomb for me… but I wonder if it is the same for a player who has ONLY played Hearthstone, now being able to see where those cards they love are actually from.

 

 

Light and Poms

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Losing Light

This marks the second weekend of attempts to get a black spindle, and I am quickly reaching a point where I no longer want it.  The first weekend was a tale of me largely spending the entire day either waiting to get a group or making attempts on it.  For whatever reason Bungie seems to keep choosing Sunday as the day for Spindle runs… which is not exactly prime time for people playing the game.  On top of that… Sunday is normally a day that I have stuff that needs to get done, and instead for two different weekends my world has focused around trying to get a Black Spindle.  I reached a point yesterday where I wanted to reach through the internet and punch whoever it was that designed this mission.  The individual parts aren’t all that bad… but combined together is just maddening.  If you could simply respawn at a checkpoint before the 10 minute timer starts on the Ketch it wouldn’t be so bad.  I would happily grind that until we finally got it… but instead it is the frustration of having to clear to a boss… then do the run across the temple… then unlock the various chambers… then FINALLY go up into the ketch and do the “real” mission.  So you have 10-15 minutes of bullshit before you reach the point at which it is omg serious mode.

We tried several different methods of attempting to down the boss, the main one being that we jump to the middle and burn him down with swords.  Towards the end we started trying to just whittle his ass down while keeping the adds under control, and honestly neither really worked well.  Anytime we ducked outside of the entrance tunnel we would get wrecked, and almost one shot.  I guess that is the biggest frustration is that the room has no place where you can really set up OTHER than the entrance tunnel and clean out the adds.  The geometry of the room means that someone is always getting hung on something and stuck awkwardly out in the open… which means they are essentially dead.  I am not sure what is up with the mission but it felt like we did significantly worse than the last time…  and this time around I am 304 and decked out in raid weapons that deal extra damage to taken.  I know I am the albatross around the neck of the group, but I am not exactly sure what I am doing wrong there.  At this point I am not likely to spend another weekend of attempts on this stupid weapon… when I have two sniper rifles that I enjoy using already.  Sure this is the best sniper in the game, but if it quite literally makes one of my party members slam their controller down against the desk breaking it…  it is not worth the hassle or frustration.

Pom Pom Squad

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The highlight of the weekend however for me was getting a Pom Pom Beanie on Friday evening while playing Division.  Strangely enough this seems to be the chase item for most people because they are actually rather rare.  I have given food and water to every single person that I meet along the street asking for it… and have a huge amount of clothing options… and have gotten exactly one pom pom beanie.  Now these also can apparently appear on the appearance vendor that unlocks with the security tier, but I have yet to see any there.  What is awesome about mine is the fact that it fits so perfectly with the colors that I already choose…  black and green.  Other than that last night I got a string of awesome weapon drops…  and I finally abandoned my beloved LSW for a couple of ACR variants and eventually a P416…  which all seem to feel the same when firing them.  I also found an upgrade for my SRS marksman rifle but unfortunately the upgrade was only a green so it won’t last nearly as long.  That seems to be my combo of weapons of choice… a fairly accurate assault rifle that fires well in single shot/bursts and a marksman rifle for headshots.  This allows me to either spray and play, for random two mob encounters on the street… or get more strategic for larger groups.

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I am consistently amazed at the wide variety of feelings this game can make me feel.  There are moments when I feel stirrings of patriotism and sentimentality like when I come across a memorial like the one above, or improvised banners hanging out of windows that say slogans like “Can’t Keep NY Down”.  Then other times the game gut punches you with feels when it comes to finding a phone message from before the infection, or as society was crumbling.  Like last night I picked up a message from two parents that were coming into town to see their child because they missed them… and it feels all the more tense knowing that they had no clue what they were walking into.  We had a lengthy AggroChat show talking about the morality of this game… and for whatever reason it stirs something completely different in me.  I absolutely feel like the good guy, the one trying hard to bring some sort of order to a fallen city.  Sure the only thing that separates me from the looters is the badge I am wearing… but I am also saving countless random people from executions or muggings as I roam the city streets.  I might be more vigilante than righteous crusader, but I am okay with that.  I think you miss some of the nuance of the game if you are constantly focused on this objective or the next, and aren’t really participating in the events that happen on the street.  I cannot count the number of times I have rolled up on a group of Rikers with their guns drawn on a civilian, and even though it is a nameless faceless NPC…  I saved them from certain death.  Had I been a little slower on the trigger finger they would be dead on the ground, and those are the moments I feel heroic.  Those are the moments when I don’t question what I am doing in this game.

New Mailbox

The Final Project

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This spring break has been pretty crazy… but nonetheless extremely productive.  I mostly wanted a pretty chill weekend, but that didn’t exactly happen.  Firstly for some reason I got it in my head that I wanted to change out the mailbox yesterday.  I should have really taken a picture of it before we started, because it was leaning forward and to one side… and had been that way for the better part of the fifteen or so years we have lived in the house.  The door was almost always leaning open because of the tilt, which really didn’t do much to keep our mail dry and safe.  Not to mention it was a post… with a notch inexplicably cut into the side… and the box itself was hanging loosely from a bracket.  On a whim the other day I started looking at options and finally settled on the step 2 fake rock model you see above.  The big thing that I liked about it is the fact that if you go on vacation you can remove the bottom of the mailbox and all of the mail drops down into a larger locked chamber below.  The mailbox is fairly square with the world… my picture taking in the bright sunshine…  not so much.  I relied heavily upon the expertise of my dad, but he was mostly there in an advisory role… which meant I  got to do the bulk of the work.  I am super thankful for him coming over though,  if for no reason other than the fact that he had a really nifty auger tool for essentially “drilling” the post hole into the ground.  That alone saved so much time and effort that I could just corkscrew down and pull out plugs of earth…  or in my case super wet and dense clay that was kinda hell to chew through.

The postive there however is that since it was really dense clay, we could simply pack it back in tight around the post rather than pouring in some quickcrete to stabilize it and set it up.  It took about two and a half hours from start to finish to remove the remnants of the old post, dig a new hole beside it, set the post and install the “easy to install” mailbox.  The last step honestly felt like it took the longest because the manufacturing tolerances were not quite like one would hope.  A lot of the steps involved us banging pieces of plastic together trying to get them together.  After a bunch of frustration… and what would have been a lot of cursing had my parents not been around.  We got the mailbox up just in time for its first delivery, which happened sometime before we had the black top on it.  When we finished with the mailbox I decided we should probably go finish the rest of the errands before I collapsed, which just involved a trip to Sams Club and a trip to Aldi.  As we were coming back from Aldi we got word that our neighbors father had fallen off a ladder and broken his pelvis.  So instead of settling in for the evening to relax, we went up to the hospital to visit and since our neighbor was stuck out of town… we tried to fill in as best we could.  This process took long enough that I was roughly an hour late for recording aggrochat… and even though we had a slew of technical difficulties we just went with it…  because ANY show is better than no show, or at least that was my stance last night.

Relaxation Day Hopefully

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So needless to say… yesterday was pretty damned hectic.  It feels good however to have accomplished as much as we did over a pretty short period of time.  My hope is to mostly just chill out today, and I am wearing all the flannel I can muster because it is pretty chilly in the house.  I really do not want to have to turn on the heat, because I know come next week we will be back in reasonable temperatures.  It is once again Black Spindle day in Destiny, but I am thinking that ship has sailed.  Two weeks ago Squirrel and I struggled to try and get someone to help with that all day long, finally only getting some assistance about 6 pm…  with my end time needing to be 8 pm.  My goal is not to sit around waiting all day to see if that happens and instead go off and enjoy myself in other games.  Not that Destiny is not enjoyable… I just hate waiting around for something.  Right now I have a 1000 Yard Stare that I really like, and the raid Sniper Rifle and between them… I am okay.  I am not planning on doing any content white nail enough to matter that the Black Spindle will make the difference.  I am enjoying casual raiding in Destiny, and I think that will be pretty much where I leave it.

As far as The Division… I am level 18 I believe or otherwise super close to it and still feeling like I need to play catch up.  I am enjoying myself especially now that I once again got a fresh infusion of weapons.  Man do new weapons make a huge amount of difference in this game because struggling… to taking things down in style.  One of the activities that I have been playing catch up on is the phone recordings… and I have to say some of them are just heart breaking.  Some are also showing me a side of characters that I completely without any reservation hated.  There is a phone call from the leader of the cleaners to his granddaughter, talking about how he had to do something for the city… and that she might hear some bad things about him… but not to believe them.  It kinda puts an entirely new spin on what I thought was a mad man, and felt completely happy about putting a bullet in his skull.  The game has a lot of grey area… and so far it has been enough to cause a good chunk of the AggroChat folks to bounce from the game.  For me… I am very much still enjoying myself, but I need to group up more so that I can see what that end of the game feels like.  Right now I kinda like wandering the streets like a nomad and righting wrongs.  Even though I am having to build that hero narrative for myself…  because what I am seeing out in the world is pretty bleak.

 

Contagion and Chill

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Sofa Time

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It’s been a shockingly busy week for me, and most of it was completely unexpected.  Monday through Wednesday I had my boss out, which means I get to not only be myself…  but also him for all purposes.  Which means my “general and administrative” time goes through the roof while attending meetings, and juggling things from the other managers in our department that need resources for this or that.  On the gaming front I was equally busy, with Monday and Tuesday largely being either prep time for the raid or actually raiding.  Then Wednesday night we had the World of Warcraft raid, and while it didn’t actually make I was ended up getting pulled into tank some Mythic Dungeons for Valor.  So when I got home last night, that was the first night of the week when I didn’t already have something planned.  After doing a round of exercises in our newly reclaimed home gym in the garage…  I plunked down on the sofa and spent the rest of the evening playing The Division.  A whole bunch of stuff happened that has greatly improved my outlook on the coming levels.

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Firstly I did in fact move on towards the higher level areas, and there I started getting either upgrades for just green drops like crazy.  The other big change is that I have started vendoring most of the stuff I get because I am simply not getting enough blueprints fast enough to be able to keep myself outfitted in crafted gear, namely not the weapons.  Because of this influx of cash I managed to pick up a nice new marksman rifle, and a brand new LSW that have greatly improved my ability to kill things.  The biggest splurge of the night was a purple chest piece I found on one of the vendors that has over 250 armor.  At the end of last night I was just shy of level 17 and have been cleaning up on the higher level stuff.  I unlocked a security tree perk that allows me to see all of the intel that I missed along the way once I complete all of the side missions for an area.  As such tonight I will likely be poking around and picking these up for quick and easy experience boosts, and start cleaning out the low level zones again.  I had been concerned about how roaming the low level areas meant I was only going up against lower level mobs… but then I quickly did the math and realized that the bulk of my experience is coming from quests and objectives… and grinding mobs is next to meaningless.  I kinda miss the days when grinding lots and lots of mobs was a viable means of leveling…  since that is ultimately my instinct anyways.

Focusing In

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Right now I think my best path is to try my best to push through to level thirty.  I want to run around and spend time in the Dark Zone, but I feel like that is largely useless until I get somewhere near the cap since the items dropping won’t be staying with me all that long.  I also noticed that before I upgraded to the 15+ DZ area the mobs were dropping level 11ish gear which really wasn’t that useful.  Now that I have moved up to the next tier, everything is way over my level and simply not doable without a group.  The fact that you get zero leveling experience while in the Dark Zone really makes me want to avoid it at least until I have capped out my character.  So as we go through the weekend I plan on slowly prodding along and picking up as many levels as I can.  Now that I am almost 17… 30 seems significantly closer and given that I went from 15 to 17 in essentially a single night.  Tonight I plan on picking up the rest of the intel that I missed, and then focusing on going back to higher zone questing.  I’ve completely most of Central Park, and then will move on the higher tier zones after that.  The side missions and encounters all seem to go pretty quickly, it is the missions that are ultimately the ones that I end up having to rez multiple times while doing.

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The game is honestly much more difficult than I expected it to be, especially as a largely solo player.  The gear really matters, and when I got the two new weapons I am using… I saw a massive increase in how successful I was in completing encounters.  The thing I struggle with right now is how much I like to snipe and how hard it is to remain in cover when there are a bunch of mobs gunning for me.  I’ve never tried the turret but I am contemplating using that as a way to draw fire away from me so I can get off a round of head shots to whittle down the opponents quickly.  In truth there are simply a lot of time with the Rikers folks that I have better luck just bobbing and weaving in and out of cover while firing my light machine gun.  Really it is the other snipers that are the bane of my existence, and the folks who fire off a heavy machine gun.  Though the last is largely due to my impatience and not wanting to always wait for them to need to reload.  I am still very much enjoying the game, I just wish I had more time to play it.  I hope this weekend I will have some more time to just hang out and chill out on Sunday and can maybe get into some grouping time with friends also playing.

 

 

Of Immersion

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That Word

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One of the things that I have come to realize over the last few days is that apparently immersion in a video game is not really that important to me.  What I mean by that is that sense of “losing yourself in a game” and for lack of better verbiage start thinking like your character.  This is one of those things that role players do amazingly well, and something that I have honestly always struggled with.  So what ends up happening when I play a pen and paper game for example… is that I ultimately always play a version of myself.  The same is true for MMOs that I create this “super me” where I change my features to match what I guess internally I consider the idealized version of myself.  I created the above imagine some time ago to illustrate that point, that essentially I keep creating the same character over and over… and the games that refuse to allow me to create that character…  I quickly lose interest in.  The reason why this has reared its head once more is the fact that I keep reading Division reviews that say the same thing.  There are a host of critics that find it jarring that they are having to fight people in essentially heavily armored hoodies.  There are so many that state that it “breaks their immersion” to fight something that takes so many bullets to make it fall over, even though they are not terribly well armored.  This is not the first time something like this has come up, and each time it makes me question… am I ever really immersed in a game?

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The thing is… I geek out about the lore and world-building that happens behind the scenes of the worlds that I am inhabiting.  I use the world inhabit because there are times I feel like I am wandering around through a realistic looking setting.  I remember the sheer awe I felt the first time I left Kaladim in Everquest and turned around to see just how massive the entrance really was.  I am a screenshot junkie and I am constantly snapping photos of the various vistas in the games I am playing.  I get thoroughly impressed when I am wandering a game like The Division that makes me feel like I am actually wandering Manhattan.  The thing is… there is never a point for me where I don’t realize I am playing a video game.  I’ve yet to really experience that transcendent moment that some folks talk about, where they blend into the story and get swept away as though it were really happening.  I mean a game can tug on my emotions, and make me feel all sorts of things…  but it is always a game, and I am always me experiencing it not some other character.  I got to thinking about the reason why this might be… and I finally landed on a possible answer.  When I am playing games… there is never a moment when I am not also doing something else.  If I am downstairs, the television is almost always on in the background, or I am carrying on a conversation with my wife at the same time.  If I am upstairs I am monitoring slack, discord or instant messenger conversations on my second monitor (or at least making an attempt at doing so) and while playing PS4 I am constantly waking my PC up when the screen goes to sleep so I can do the same.  Even back in the day when I would play a Nintendo or Super Nintendo game in my childhood bedroom… I would be listening to music or trying to jot down notes about where I found this or that.  I guess I have always been a habitual multi-tasker with one foot always in the next activity, or the one after that…  and because my mind is always thinking about other things and other possibilities it is very hard to get all that engaged in the one I am currently doing.  So when I play a game… I want a really awesome world with really fun game mechanics…  but a lot of the sticking points that seem to bother other people just simply don’t even register until I read it from someone else’s perspective.

Going Dark

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A good chunk of last night was spent doing Mythic Dungeons in World of Warcraft.  The normal Wednesday night raid group did not meet this week because we were down four or five people.  When I got home I popped into Discord and ultimately wound up logging in and tanking a couple of Mythic dungeons, something that for whatever reason I had never actually done.  Of note…  unless it is late in the evening there is never a time when I am going to turn tanking for a full guild group.  Now if we are having to pug people…  you are likely going to see me check out completely, but I really do enjoy tanking for friends and friends of friends.  After a couple of runs however I had my fill and ultimately logged from WoW for the evening.  I popped into The Division and did a cleaners mission that was super stressful and wound up with me rezzing at the check point a number of times.  The problem I have been having is that I am starting to feel severely under geared for my level, so after having watched so many dark zone videos where the loot seems to drop like candy, I decided to make my way over there even though I have heard so many times that “solo dark zone” is a bad idea.  Within a few minutes of wandering around, I was absolutely slaughtered by a rogue agent…  but the thing is it didn’t really bother me that much because I had yet to actually pick up anything decent.  Instead I opted to simply hunt right around the nearest Extraction point, where I noticed there were lots of people who seemed completely happy not to shoot me in the back.

I wandered around for a little bit and in that time managed to successfully extract a couple of loads of stuff.  A few of the items were blue upgrades… but the bulk was simply just stuff that I could sell and push me closer to my goal of a nice weapon available on the main base weapons vendor.  I had quite a bit of fun, and I can absolutely see how exploring this super dangerous area would be amazing with friends.  My schedule has been pretty damned wonky over the last few weeks so I am kinda hoping that I can connect with some of my other friends playing this game over the weekend and do some dark zone fun.  I realize that I am in an awkward level not being 30 yet, but I still think it could be a lot of fun to wander around out there and see what we can take down.  Last night I finally dinged 15, which again makes me so far behind the pack it isn’t even funny level wise.  Lately I had been pushing my way around the lower zones trying to finish them, when in truth I probably should just skip ahead to the 15ish areas and do whatever is available out there.  I poked my head into Flatiron and immediately started seeing greens that were massive upgrades over what I happened to be wearing, so I am guessing that is precisely what I should be doing.  The problem is… I have spent so much time wandering aimlessly that I have out leveled the areas I still have some quests in.  I figure I can always go at a later date and mop those up after I have hit the cap.

 

 

Savior of New York

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Mostly Done

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Yesterday we continued on out in the garage and did a much more prodding and tedious detail pass.  This meant sitting down and sorting through old boxes that we had not seen in nearly a decade.  Among the treasures I uncovered was my Gameboy SP as well as pretty much all of my Gameboy Advance cartridges.  I literally had no clue where that was, and the last time I remembered having it was in a car that we traded off long ago.  I had feared that I simply forgot to remove it from under the drivers seat…  because for a long while it was my “waiting on my wife to finish at school” from a time when we regularly drove in together.  Apparently we did in fact pull it out of the car, and it sat in this trash bag filled with lots of other stuff we hurriedly pulled from that car before we traded it off.  This is apparently a tradition of ours because not only did we find a bag for when we traded off the Pontiac Grand Am…  but also a bag from when we traded off like two other vehicles as well.  I also found entire boxes of stuff that I apparently packed up when leaving previous jobs and never bothered to go through.  These boxes were full of countless pay stubs and health plan documents…  so a good chunk of my yesterday was sitting down listening to podcasts and shredding all the documents.

One of the gems of the day was the above image…  a box of essentially all of our ancient cell phones.  These pretty much represented our pre-smartphone era and those Nokia 5160s were our very first phones that we used for ages.  We also found a bunch of extra face plates…  since you could swap them out so easily.  The positive about these ancient phones is the fact that we didn’t even really have texting plans on any of them, so there isn’t really data worth harvesting so we can dispose of them pretty easily.  My friend Squirrel suggested that he would love to have them, for target practice.  Unfortunately by the time he posted that I had already disposed of the entire box.  Probably my favorite of that era was the weird white LG flip phone, largely because it had a clock visible on its face without actually opening it.  Another interesting find was my “art box” which is a big wooden box that was crammed with all of my watercolor and pen and ink stuff from college.  Another strange thing was the truly insane number of World of Warcraft trading game cards that I found stuffed pretty much everywhere.  For awhile it was habit to pick up a pack anytime I needed to go to the store… and apparently they just sat around everywhere.  At some point I will sift through them all and gather up all of the leftover in game codes to give away to readers or something.  They are mostly the “toy” variety, like Path of Cenarus or Illidan or maybe some Pet Biscuits.  Still the sort of thing is fun to have if you don’t otherwise have access to them.  The strangest thing about the weekend… is I think because we were so tired anyways from the cleaning, I can’t say that losing an hour has really had much effect on me.

Don’t Panic

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I spent essentially the rest of the weekend playing The Division.  At this point I have logged about thirty four hours since launch, and am sitting just a little past level fourteen.  The game still feels very fresh, and it is funny how much my play style has changed as I have moved into the game.  Early on I thought I would be super tanky and focus on things that let me survive in an open firefight, but in truth the longer I play the more sniper I become.  Right now I am running around with a Covert SRS for sniping purposes and generally dealing lots of damage quickly to targets that are far away from me, and then when they get into closer range I swap to a Police M4 which can whittle down enemies with focused bursts.  This works amazingly well against pretty much every enemy type but snipers.  Those guys… are pretty much the bane of my existence because they are trying to play the same game I am, and generally the computer is better at it.  So I spend a lot of my time trying to get out of line of sight from the snipers while mopping everything else up…  and then play this game of chicken popping in and out of cover and trying to quick scope them before popping back down like a prairie dog.  The worst snipers so far are the Rikers because they just seem more brutal in every possible way.  That said it might simply be that they are the highest level enemies I can encounter currently.

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On the podcast Saturday night we got into this long discussion about the morality of The Division, and how it made the other AggroChat folks feel uneasy.  I can’t say that I am experiencing this at all, because like always I am writing my own narrative of my character as I go… and the fact that this is a silent protagonist game really helps that for me.  So as i move around the city, I am the big damned hero cleaning up the city and saving people.  I am absolutely the good guys in my tale, but then again as they said Saturday so are the Cleaners, who absolutely think they are doing what is right for the city.  I guess for me I just love how rich this setting is… all of the little details like the graffiti that I am showcasing in the photos for today’s post is just amazing.  I think the key difference is… that I never really fully immerse myself into a game setting.  It is always a game that I am playing, and always a story where I am the hero.  Even if I am not supposed to be… I am building a narrative compatible with my notion that in spite of whatever actions I am taking, I am doing it for some greater good.  In the Division I absolutely rush to save hostages, or citizens being held up by looters, because it makes me feel like the hero I am trying to be.  When you do a random encounter on the street you are given bonuses for various things… and when I see that survivor bonus it always makes me happy.  I also spend a lot of my time going through abandoned buildings so I can make sure I always have whatever item citizens ask for when I come across one in need.  I am the one making the city a better place, and I am comfortable with that stance.  I guess that might be why I like the post apocalyptic genre so much, is because the world is in such a screwed up state… that there are so many ways for me to help fix it.  Even if fixing means simply hunting down the biggest baddest warlord… and putting a bullet in his skull.

 

Sleeper Awakens

Real World Rifts

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

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

Completing Quests

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

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