Pairing Down

The Struggle

One of the biggest challenges about this whole “blog every day” concept is that some mornings there is just nothing at all in my head to talk about.  When I am sick like I was yesterday, I tend to turtle and pull my head up inside my shell, disconnecting me from the interwebs and all of you fine people.  Unfortunately when my biggest source of inspiration is gone, I can get a little bit of writers block.  It is mornings like this that I feel outline the importance of just allowing yourself to write whatever happens to pop into your head.  It might not be epic and exciting, but it is staying true to the mission as a whole.  Unfortunately we are well based the NBI 2014 initiative, otherwise I would spin this into some sort of an inspirational post about struggling through.

This is not a slight in any way to the previous NBI groups, but I have been really impressed with just how tenacious the Class of 2014 has been.  Generally speaking there is a significant drop off the month after the initiative as folks take a massive breather after having survived being the focus of so many folks attention.  When the spotlight fades a bit, it is rough to keep posting when you inevitably notice fewer people are reading.  However this group either is blissfully oblivious to the existence of blog statistics, or they really are writing for themselves, because they seem to still be going strong.  A few of the “newbies” are among the most prolific posters in my blog reader, and I am amped to still see them enjoying the whole experience.

Pairing Down

WoWScrnShot_061314_062051Right now I have come to realize that I am playing entirely too many MMOs to feel like I am making any significant progress in any of them.  Over the last two months I’ve played Warlords of Draenor, Rift, ArcheAge, Wildstar, Star Wars the Old Republic, Elder Scrolls Online, Defiance, Everquest II, Landmark, The Secret World, Diablo 3, Lego Minifigures Online and Trove.  While I embrace the whole polygamerous thing, I think even for me this is a bit too much especially when you throw in League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm on top of those… and occasionally some Hex and Hearthstone.  Mostly I think I need to drop some of the games that feel similar to me from the rotation, or at least games that scratch the same itch.

rift 2014-02-13 06-28-10-40 I feel like I have to keep testing Warlords of Draenor in part out of remembrance for River, and him being so damned excited to have gotten into the alpha process.  While I won’t be playing with the same wide eyed amusement that he would have, I am trying my best to enjoy the experience in his honor.  However I can safely say that I will not be playing the actual live World of Warcraft anytime in the near future.  I think maybe WoW has run its course with me for awhile, and Wildstar has stepped in to take its place in my heart without me really wanting it to.  Wildstar really is a much better version of WoW, and I am just embracing that fact.  As a result Rift and SWTOR are also losing out, because to me they still fill the same “wow-like” niche.  As a result I won’t be renewing my patron account in Rift.

The Non-WoW Itch

ARCHEAGE 2014-05-08 20-13-50-11It was fun trying to get into Defiance, but the problem is I got into the Destiny alpha… and it was pretty much everything I had hoped Defiance would be.  So I won’t be spending much more time trying to get into that game when I know there is something I will like much better coming later this year.  ArcheAge I want to like, but it has without a doubt the worst community of griefers I have experienced anywhere.  So unless Trion comes out and announces there will be a co-op server… it is pretty much a nonstarter for me and no sense really spending much more time on it.  Landmark on the other hand has an amazing community, but right now there just isn’t much game there for me to play.  They have built this amazing crafting sandbox, but without combat it isn’t all that interesting to me past the initial build phase.  They have added caves so I figure at some point I will poke  my head back in, but exploration without combat just sounds boring to me.  I’ve officially allowed my claim to be repossessed at this point.

EverQuest2 2013-10-02 06-37-39-56 I still have a special place in my heart for Everquest II, and I can’t say I won’t return to it in the future… but for now I think there are just too many other options.  EQ2 was one of those games where I hated the combat system but loved everything else about it.  Wildstar with its systems within systems is really filling the niche that EQ2 always did, which might be why it is feeling so sticky considering it is replacing both EQ2 and WoW for me.  The Secret World is one of those games I love to remember fondly, but never seem to have a desire to log into on a regular basis.  I know there is a bunch of storyline that I have yet to participate in, and I keep thinking that some weekend I will play through all of it.  That weekend just has yet to arrive, and lately the only time I seem to log in is when I get new hardware and want to test how it performs.

The Also Rans

Diablo III 2014-03-06 22-07-06-52 Diablo 3 is enjoyable, and at some point I would really like to get a crusader to 70…  hell I would like to get my monk to 70.  I just struggle to find any drive to play it when my own personal internet zeitgeist… aka the folks I hang out on voice chat nightly, are not also playing it.  It was really fun up until the release of Elder Scrolls Online and then boom we all vacated the premises.  For the time being I am pretty much crossing it off my list until there is another upwelling of desire among my friends to play it.  Trove is similarly really fun, but without a lot of people that I know playing it on a regular basis I have fallen back out of love with it.  I will likely continue to poke my head into the game irregularly but when I do play… so much has changed that the experience feels very off-putting.  The game is in a pretty much constant state of flux, which is awesome if you are devoted to this game, but confusing if you are a “sometimes” player like me. Play 2014-03-14 10-12-29-25 League of Legends will be a permanent fixture in my gaming rotation so long as I have friends who are devoted to playing it.  I don’t necessarily love the game, but I enjoy playing with my friends.  I personally like Heroes of the Storm so much better, but the problem is with it being in a limited release “technical alpha” state there just are not enough people around regularly to play with.  The MOBA genre is really only fun for me if I am playing with a group of friends, and in this scenario League wins out every time.  That is not to say that I won’t keep poking my head into Heroes especially as they add new waves of players.  As far as Hearthstone and Hex…  I am back playing Magic the Gathering in real life with friends at lunch time…  so the draw of these games is minimal right now.

Those Who Made the Cut

WildStar64 2014-06-20 22-30-01-908 So after spending all of this time culling games for this or that reason, I figure I should talk about the games I am deciding to keep in the rotation.  Warlords of Draenor I am actually enjoying when I do manage to get in and play it.  So yes I am partially doing it in honor of River, and his desire to be in the Alpha, but there is something charming about the new content.  I don’t feel like it will be enough to keep me in WoW, but for the time being I am enjoying it while I can.  Wildstar has pretty much filled the corner of my heart that desire to play a theme park MMO, and it really is the most glorious theme park of experiences once you give yourself over to it.  I feel like I have barely scratched the surface on what it has to offer, and I am intrigued at the schedule they have put out before us.  I really like that they are choosing to put in “hardmode” single and small group content before augmenting the raid game.  That says a lot that they understand that they need to focus on both going forward to keep players.

eso 2014-02-23 12-41-25-63 I still feel like I have so much more that I want to do in Elder Scrolls Online.  I want to finish the Aldmeri Dominion content and see the Ebonheart Content, as well as spend time exploring Craglorn.  I love this game even though I am not playing it much, and I can’t see dropping it from the rotation anytime soon.  I realize that not many players feel the same way about the game as I do, but really for me it is like the best possible version of Skyrim.  I have been out so long at this point that I feel like I am going to be extremely rusty.  There game has problems, namely it is awkward as hell to do anything as a group other than Cyrodil.  They really need to fix this, and I hope that the good folks at Zenimax are looking into things like mentoring.  Right now it is a really awesome single player experience, but gets cludgy when you start adding in more people.  That said it still does have amazing dungeon design, and there are so many of them that I have yet to experience.

LMO 2014-06-23 06-41-14-037 Last but not least is a game that has come in and taken my heart by storm.  Lego Minifigures Online is absolutely adorable and I love everything about this game.  Last night this was the only thing I actually played, and grouped up with Rae she managed to catch me up almost to her level in experience.  Right now we have a vastly different set of mini figures, and it is really enjoyable to group together.  We have both opted to get memberships, and the pocket dungeons are awesome… some of them ending up extremely challenging like the Dragon’s Lair dungeon with I think five different boss fights in it.  I’ve already gotten more than my moneys worth of enjoyment out of it, so this is definitely going to be in my weekly rotation for a long while.  It basically scratches the itch that Diablo 3 did, and cashes in on my absolute love of all things Lego.

So there you have it, going forward I am mostly going to be focused on Wildstar, Elder Scrolls Online and Lego Minifigures Online.  I of course reserve the right to change my mind and undo all of these in the blink of an eye.  That said I do have a ton of single player games that I want to play through, and both the PS3 and PS4 ready to stream content.  I spent a good chunk of the weekend playing Assassin’s Creed 4 for example… and I am absolutely horrible at it, but enjoying myself quite a bit.  As far as online games, I am going to try and limit myself to just these games above for the time being.  I know in September I will be digging into Destiny and playing that online with friends quite a bit, but it doesn’t directly conflict with the types of games I chose above.  Maybe with this abbreviated list, I won’t constantly feel overwhelmed when I sit down at night and try and figure what exactly I am going to do.`

Eternal Youth

Something in the air

Struggling to exist a bit this morning.  Yesterday evening we had a series of storms and something blew in with them that is pissing my asthma off.  So at the moment I am taking a breathing treatment while doing this mornings post.  It sucks when my lungs conspire against me, but after almost four decades of this you get used to it.  That seems weird to type that out, but I dinged 38 last week… and as my wife puts it I am officially in my “late” thirties now.  I don’t really feel any older most of the time, but there are moments when it catches up with me…  like when I am talking to a teenager and I realize they were not alive when I graduated high school.

Age is one of those things that sneaks up on you.  You assume everyone has the same experiences you had until you try and make a cultural reference that only really works well for folks born in the same decade as you.  Rae that cohosts the podcast with me is literally a full decade younger than me, and I am constantly reminded of the gulf of time between us.  Being a teacher my wife occasionally brings home of the the famous Mindset Lists for the incoming class of high schoolers.  Nothing is guaranteed to make you feel old like reading through one of those, and seeing it peppered with events you think are “recent” history.

Eternal Youth

LMO 2014-06-22 09-38-31-713 So in contrast when I find something that makes me feel eternally youthful, I latch onto it with both hands.  I think that is one of the things I love most about Lego’s, they bring me back to an earlier time when I was sitting in the floor building 1980s era insane space ships.  It is awesome to see that Lego Minifigures Online captures this optimism and bottles it into a Diablo like form.  I spent a good chunk of the weekend playing and I have to say I find it both adorable and infectious.  The gameplay is simple, but at the same time nuanced when you add in the way the different characters behave in the setting.  Right now I have settled on a team of the Roman Soldier, Forest Maiden and oddly enough the Waiter.

LMO 2014-06-22 09-26-01-916 I have to admit, when I got a pack of minifigures to drop and I pulled the Waiter from it…  I was more than a little disappointed.  I had hoped for the Cyclops or the Knight… or even the Space Invader…  but got a guy in a suit with a wine bottle.  The awesome thing about the waiter is he exactly represents the ludicrousness of this game.  Who would have thought that a waiter would be a badass combat character.  All characters come in one of three basic types:  Defender, Striker and Builder.  Defenders have more survival at the cost of slightly weaker attacks.  Strikers have extremely powerful offense at the loss of survival.  Builders are odd things, because they can complete building objectives extremely quickly, but otherwise are pretty useless.  Essentially my lineup is a melee defender, ranged defender and a melee striker and it seems to be working pretty well.

LMO 2014-06-22 10-16-49-728 Over the weekend I decided to take the plunge and become a member, as there are quite a number of features paywalled.  Most importantly you cannot really complete any dungeons unless you are a member, and the world is scattered with these little offshoot areas full of treasure and minibosses…  aka exactly the sort of thing I love doing.  Additionally as a member you get a pack of minifigures a month as well as a batch of their cash shop currency.  For the most part the game uses a league like structure where instead of buying individual champions you buy packs that contain a random champion.  Here is where my only sticking point comes in.  If you purchase or win a pack… there is a chance of getting a minifigure you already own.  Instead of giving you back the diamonds for your purchase… they give you the other in game currency stars, like 1000 of them.  The problem is… that 1000 stars is in no way worth as much as the diamonds that went into purchasing.  Especially since as a member you have a massively increased rate of star drops.

Lego Minifigures

LMO 2014-06-23 06-41-23-422 That said I feel like this is a game where you could play it completely free if you so chose.  Essentially by the end of completing the introduction to the game you have four different minifigures.  The first three you choose upon creating your character, and are doled out your team through the series of a few quests.   The starter team I chose was the Roman Commander, Bee Girl and Fortune Teller, but there are three different sets you have to choose from and they are designed to be a “balanced” team with a defender, striker and a builder on them.   At the end of the tutorial you get a single random minifigure pack.  This is where I picked up my waiter, and while I was disappointed at first he has become one of my favorite characters to play.  So having four minifigures is a good start at playing the game, and I am sure you could complete almost all of the content with only these four.

LMO 2014-06-23 06-41-18-895 The only other barriers seem to be level based.  The big thing I have noticed since switching to being a member is that the drop rates in general are far better.  You get both a significantly larger amount of stars from breaking apart structures and diamonds from completing quests.  So this is going to make progression without payment significantly slower.  Honestly though I feel that is pretty much how it should be.  Free to play games have to make a profit somehow, and after watching Lego Universe crash and burn, I would love to see this one end up far more successful.  Funcom has made an extremely fun game, and it is the perfect… I want to play something, but I don’t want to think too hard game.  Seeing the Lego universe recreated flawlessly in online game form, is sure to be the source of hours of enjoyment.

#Lego #Minifigures #FreetoPlay

Rocket Powered Hoverboard

Baby’s First Diablo

LMO 2014-06-20 06-09-20-013 It is no real secret that I love Lego, as I sit in an office full of sets waiting to be built and have an army of minifigures decorating my cube at work.  So when I first heard that Funcom, the makers of my beloved Secret World were working on a brand new game revolving around the random minifigures bags that I already buy way too often…  I figured I would be throwing money at the screen.  A good friend of mine managed to get into the alpha and without saying much about it specifically she said it was extremely cute and charming.  That about sums it up perfectly…  oh and you might throw in adorable.  I love the whole “toy store come to life” vibe that you get while playing the first level.  You start off with one of three sets of minifigures, I ended up going for the roman soldier, because he is already one of the favorite minifigures I own.

I am not sure who exactly coined the phrase, but so far “Baby’s First Diablo” has stuck, and that is not to diminish anything about the game.  It feels very much like a diablo style version of the various “Lego” franchise branded video games.  You break up blocks to get resources and stars in this case instead of coins.  Then you use special “builder” type minifigures to construct objectives.  You can have three minifigures equipped at a time, and right now my team consists of the Roman Soldier that has a charge and a melee swing, the Fortune Teller who is one of those special builder types, and the Bee Girl that drops adorable honey bombs and attacks enemy legos with swarms of bee ranged attacks.

It seems like the game is going to use a model similar to league of legends in that you buy champions in the form of minifigures packs.  The only gotcha is that I assume they will be just as random as the actual in store variety is.  So if I had to guess you can probably end up with duplicates, but I have no clue at all how that will work.  Will you be able to trade your dupes with other players, or will they have some sort of a deconstruction ability to turn them into resources…  or are they just going to go with “smart random” in that you never have the chance of getting a minifigure you already have.  In that case it would mean you would simply need to buy 16 packs of each type and would eventually get the full set.  This is definitely going to be a game I watch as the open beta continues.

Rocket Powered Hoverboard

WildStar64 2014-06-20 06-18-05-408 Just like Griff Tannen in Back to the Future… my hoverboard’s got power.  Last night I dinged 25 and was finally able to claim both the preorder hoverboard and the deluxe edition hoverboard.  Surprisingly I think I like the deluxe edition quite a bit better.  Originally I upgraded to deluxe when I thought I would be sticking around for awhile, and I guess I am happy I did so.  On the chua it seems so much cooler looking than the original human preview picture did.  I guess the difference is that the preview shots didn’t really have actual in game lighting applied to them, so they made everything look that much more gold and gaudy.  In game it looks pretty cool and as short and fat as my chua is… the regular hoverboard just looks too small for him.

WildStar64 2014-06-20 06-42-26-568 So far moving out of Auroria has breathed new life into the game because I did not really understand at the time just how bored with that zone I was.  It’s weird because I absolutely loved Deredune but couldn’t be bothered to care about Auoria at all.  Now I am in something much more my style the traditional “snowy” zone.  For whatever reason I seem to have an affinity for the snow  zones in games be it Iron Pine Peaks or Winterspring… that usually ends up as my favorite leveling destination.  Additionally I’ve installed a number of mods that make following the quest chains a bit easier so I expect that I will stay on track a little better rather than endlessly chasing rabbit trails.  I am still firmly in the middle of the pack level wise, but there are several that are now into their 30s, so I keep feeling the need to “catch up”.

Battlefield Hardline

Game trailers are pretty much all lies, but even knowing that this one gave me hope that we might see an interesting shooter to play.  You have to understand that my ideal shooter is one of the Enemy Territory series games, where you have real “objectives” that have to be completed in order to progress the map.  Based on this footage and folks using the term objective based shooter… I had hopes that this might be a return to that gameplay style.  So I applied for the beta and got accepted to play it on the Playstation 4.  Within a few minutes of gameplay all of those hopes were dashed.  This game is pretty much exactly like every single Battlefield or Call of Duty game… except this time you get to play cops and robbers.  For some that will be a good thing, if you like Battlefield and Call of Duty…  but for me it is a pretty damning indictment.

The objectives in Hardline are basically “capture the flag” by another name.  Instead of creating a series of complicated objectives that the team has to work together to achieve, it simply creates temporary choke points where death-matching occurs.  On top of this… the game just does not feel like a next generation shooter.  Everything feels extremely low resolution as compared to say Destiny, in fact I wouldn’t even say those two games are anywhere near the same league as far as look and feel.  Everything about this game feels like a “B Team” effort, and I think that is pretty much what players have come to expect out of “off year” titles in the big shooter franchises.  Basically if you just want Battlefield 4 with a few changes, then you might enjoy it.  If you were like me and hoping for something more…  keep looking elsewhere.  After all Destiny is just around the corner.

#LegoMinifigures #Wildstar #Hoverboard #BattlefieldHardline