Mobile Matters

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For years I have said that I really did not think that gaming on my phone was really my “thing”.  It was a platform that I largely felt didn’t quite fit my lifestyle, because in part I felt like I either had access to PC and Consoles…  or simply didn’t have the ability to game period.  Recently however I have been eating the hell out of those words.  For the last week or so I have been getting used to a new phone, and at some point I will probably do a proper review of it.  Functionally I could not bring myself to spend $800 to $1000 on a new phone… and my Samsung Galaxy s5 had lots of problems.  This lead me to branch out and look into some other options… and I finally landed on the ZTE Axon 7 which is a very solid attempt at a Chinese flagship killer.  When I finally do a proper review I will get around to more about that, however suffice to say I am enjoying it.  There is a thing that happens with PC gamers…  when we get new hardware.  We go through this phase of installing everything that we have cared about in the past… and trying it out on the new setup to see what has and has not improved.  With this new phone being so much more powerful than my previous one…  I found myself going through this same routine and testing out things like the android Hearthstone client.  When I say the previous phone had issues…  it is because once upon a time I rooted my phone in an attempt to bypass the AT&T blockade against tethering/wifi hotspots on my current plan.  I still have one of those ancient grandfathered in iPhone unlimited plans…  and while they have raised the price there is no way in hell I am giving up $25 a month unlimited mobile data.

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While the S5 is technically no longer rooted, I seem to have tripped some anti-tamper seal of a sort on the phone and it fails the Google Safetynet test that app manufacturers have started incorporating into their apps.  This means that I was forced to stop playing Pokemon Go when they patched in this protection, and similarly have been unable to experience Fire Emblem Heroes, Mario Run or a whole slew of newer games that just do this check by default.  The biggest problem with me and phone gaming in the past however was the battery life, and the way that a few minutes of Final Fantasy Record Keeper could shave off 25% of my battery before I even realized.  With the new phone this seems to no longer be the issue that it once was… and either because the processor does not need to work nearly as hard…  or the fact that I have a 3250 mAh battery (instead of 2800 mAh) I can functionally play games and still use my phone for everything else that I want to.  As a result lately I have been heading to bed fairly early and then chilling out there and playing mobile games until sleep finally claims me.  Similarly while I am out and about I am starting to play a lot more Pokemon Go, but have not really gone out on catching jaunts like I did around the release a year ago.  I contemplated going out last night but it was still over 90 degrees outside after 9pm, so I figured I would leave that to a cooler evening.

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The games that have seemed to clamp down the hardest on my attention however are Fire Emblem Heroes…  which is a thoroughly charming tactics style combat game and of course Final Fantasy Record Keeper that I already played a significant amount of in the past.  This is the point where I admit that I have never actually played a Fire Emblem game in the past, and while I am sure the actual games are not terribly similar to this mobile title…  it does make me a hell of a lot more interested in them.  The premise is largely nonsense…  but it is the sort of nonsense that I find myself enjoying at the moment.  The biggest problem with these games is that I really have no clue what I am doing on a regular basis… and not even sure what the best way to do anything in game is.  I’ve been slowly working my way through the story in Fire Emblem, and in Record Keeper I noticed that they seemingly have gotten less sparing with handing you a bunch of characters.  I worked my way through most of a Final Fantasy XIV themed event dungeon… and picked up Yshtola, Minfilia, Yda, Papalymo, and Cid…  and started working my way through a similarly FFXII Zodiac Age themed one.  Much like in Pokemon Go… the excitement for me is in the collection of new characters and not so much in the leveling and battle.

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Lastly I have been slowly working my way through Final Fantasy V on the phone as an attempt to do things like play over my lunch break…  which admittedly has not actually happened yet.  I got completely wrecked last night by Garula, which means I am going to have to sort out a decent strategy for this one.  Of course I am not playing the game legitimately… and instead am doing the Four Job Fiesta…  which means I am attempting to take him down as a party of four Black Mages.  Its time to go figure out some strategery so I can get past him and get my next set of jobs.  I find the mobile FFV client a little wonky… and especially in mobiles where you need fine motor control…  that is not a thing the touchpad really gives you.  Getting through the poison plants at the top of the mountain was not really a thing…  so I simply opted to walk through a couple and take antidotes.  Regardless it works well enough for my needs and gives me a reasonable platform without really shackling me to a specific location for playing it.  I kinda hope we eventually get a version on the switch through either virtual console… or a release of this mobile port to it.  Whatever the case….  someone seems to have replaced me with a doppelganger that does not mind mobile gaming all the sudden.

 

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: July/August Edition

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I just realized the other day that it had been a long while since I had done one of my regularly playing posts.  The general idea is to true up my sidebar list of games and bring it into alignment with the games that I am actually playing on a fairly regular basis.  Some of these might not be every day occurrences but they represent the regular rotation of games you are likely to see me talking about.  At some point however I fell off the wagon and went the entire month of July without any form of an update.  As a result I am doing this to cover both July and August and get me up to date.

To Those Remaining

World of Warcraft

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I am legitimately playing World of Warcraft more actively than I have in years.  More than likely this is the most seriously I have played since before the launch of Cataclysm.  I am really enjoying the game, and the changes to the various specs… and even enjoying the Legion launch event more.  Over the last few days I have been using this event as a bit of a springboard to help level up some of my sub 100 characters because every two events you participate in seems to be roughly a levels worth of experience, even in the 90s.  So I took my Shadowpriest last night for example from 92 to 94 in two full rounds of the event.  As far as the rest of the game there is still a ton of stuff I want to do, that mostly centers around running older content and collecting appearances.  To say I am looking forward to the Legion Launch is a bit of an understatement.

Final Fantasy XIV

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Final Fantasy XIV on the other hand has fallen a little bit by the wayside.  It is that game that I am logging into only to raid… which ironically is traditionally my stance with World of Warcraft.  I am loving the Monday night raid team, and we are now starting to do more serious content.  I still have little to no drive however to level or gear, at least until the content we are doing requires it.  That might be a thing that happens soon because we have pretty much defeated all of the “easy” end game content and are now starting down the path of the more difficult stuff.  However it feels amazing to have “the band back together” and doing raids together  as a team.

Rift

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At the very least right now I am logging in every day to participate in the Starfall Prophecy launch event, which is namely collecting prophecies that I can then later turn in for rewards.  The pre-order bonus means that we will get access to some awesome stuff like the artifact finding mount, and I want to make sure I don’t miss out on any of that.  Otherwise I need to really hunt for a group of players that are more active.  I don’t want to disband the House Stalwart guild or anything, but I might consider moving Belghast off to another guild, because I would like to see Comet of Ahnket before the expansion lands since the lore seems like it will give me a headstart into understanding what is going on.  Additionally I want to spend a sleepy afternoon at some point doing more Intrepid Adventures.  Those things are just absolutely fun as hell and it is a style of “LFR” that I wish more games would look into implementing.

To The Returning and New

Diablo 3

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As stated when I originally removed it from the list, I knew that it would be a limited time thing.  With the beginning of this month came the launch of Season 7 of Diablo 3, and a return of several of us to actively playing again.  This time around we do not have nearly the throng of players that we did with season six, but myself, Grace and Thalen are all fairly active.  This time feels a little cheap though because we all seemed to opted for the fastest possible clearing class…  or at least our view on that.  The Demon Hunter is a powerhouse and one that you can get up and running insanely quickly.  By the time we dinged 70 we were already pushing content hard and fast, and after roughly a weeks time I am now clearing greater rifts in the 50s like they are a cakewalk.  The only question now is just how serious I am going to be on trying to get that extra stash slot.  Right now there is so much going on, that I am afraid Diablo 3 is going to fall by the wayside.

Pokemon Go

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Pokemon Go is something that did not even exist on my radar when I did the last “Recently Playing” and has been something that has dominated my life since.  I have gone through the stages of grief with this game, and have reached a point where I continue to play it without really understanding why.  I wrote the other day about some of my frustrations, and they are very real.  However still… anytime I leave the house I check for nearby Pokemon each time I stop and get out of the car.  As the heat starts to chill the hell out… and we no longer have 100 degree days I will probably start resuming my evening pokestrolls.  However when it is 100 degrees at 9pm at night… it is just too damned hot to go out roaming too far.  I hope this game gets some much needed changes, because the ones thusfar feel like they are taking it in the wrong direction.  Niantic Labs still does not seem to understand that they made a MMO.

No Man’s Sky

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This one is seriously brand new… but I have a feeling that over the coming weeks it is going to be a new obsession for me.  I called it Interstellar Skyrim, and it invokes the same sort of feelings in me.  The problem being… all of this is pending you can actually get it running on your machine.  There are lots of problems ahead of this title before it reaches serious mass adoption, and I hope that in the coming weeks they can push through them.  To say it has performance issues is the understatement of the century right now, and I am questioning my original plan to get this on the PC.  That said I am committed at this point and still very much enjoying the experience.

To Those Parting

Destiny

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I have so much love for Destiny, but for whatever reason I have drifted away from it in the last few weeks.  In both the month of July and August I have not really played much, so I am temporarily removing it from the list.  I know without a doubt in Mid-September when Rise of Iron hits, that I will be back and actively playing it again.  In the meantime however I feel like I have gotten it out of my system for the moment.  However if my friend Grace suddenly decides to start playing again, I will likely be right back there with guns a blazing.  I think a huge part of it is that I really have not been spending all that much time up in my office where my Playstation 4 is, and instead hanging out on the sofa playing on my laptop.  Much like when I remove Diablo 3 from the list… this is absolutely going to change in the coming months and I am sure I will have yet another resurgence.

ArcheAge

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I feel like ArcheAge is a casualty of simply too much other stuff going on right now.  At the beginning of July I had a bit of a renaissance with this game and managed to push through to fourty six… and then the content seemed to dry up a bit.  The quests are still there, but they seem to be generally less plentiful, and the progress I was making felt a bit bogged down.  As a result this sort of just fell by the wayside, and I am sure at some point I will reignite my fires for this game because at the end of the day I still very much like it.  The biggest thing that came from this last journey is that I realized that PVP isn’t as big of a hurdle as I was expecting.  I have technically spent the last dozen or so levels in pvp enabled areas… and really did not run into a single issue.  Flagged players avoided me, and I avoided them and we continued questing along happily.  At some point I am sure I will return, but for the time being I am removing it from my list of “active” games.

Pokemon Go Frustrations

Bad Polling

A few days ago I did yet another one of my super-non-scientific polls about Pokemon Go.  I got far fewer results than I had hoped but in the end got 38 total votes… and you can see the results here.  Ultimately I was curious to see just how well Pokemon Go is doing among my twitter timeline a little over a month after the initial release.  I knew my usage of the app had morphed a bit, and I was curious to see if everyone else had as well.  The slight unfair comparison here however is that with the staggered launch, some folks like most of South America just literally got access to the application.  As always I tried to create a bunch of categories that summed up what I thought of as the possible endpoints… but ultimately missed a few.  The results look something like this.

  • Actively “Catching Them All” Every Day – 11 Votes (29%)
  • Only Playing When You Go Someplace New – 5 Votes (13%)
  • Playing Rarely if you Remember – 10 Votes (26%)
  • Still Installed but not Active – 6 Votes (16%)
  • Uninstalled:  May Check Later – 2 Votes (5%)
  • Uninstalled: Got It Out of System – 1 Vote (3%)
  • Never Tried It: Not For Me – 3 Votes (8%)
  • Never Tried It: Still Interested – 0 Votes (0%)

Now I have no baseline here, because I should have taken a poll like this shortly after the launch, but it feels like that rarely playing number is probably higher than it would have been early on.   For me personally I am in this awkward place of still playing, but not nearly with the same gusto that I once did.  The attraction of Pokemon in the first place is the collection of new and interesting “mon”.  So when I play the actual game I spend most of my time capturing critters either to keep in my own collection or to wonder trade them off just to see what I might get in return.  The first few days of playing Pokemon Go felt like this, with me constantly finding something new and interesting around every corner.  However at this point I have caught 85 of the 150 Pokemon available in Pokemon Go and of that list…  Ditto, Mew, Mewtoo, Zapdos, Articuno, and Moltres are largely just myths at the moment.  That means I have roughly 60% of the 144 that are reasonably available right now.  Even then you have to discount the fact that Mr Mime, Khangaskhan and Farfetch’d are not available to me in the United States, which drops the total of available Pokemon down to 141.  Then you factor in the fact that I am in a Grass Type dominated area and pretty much every Rock and Fire type Pokemon is rare as shit here… and can pretty much only be summoned with a Lure or Incense my total reasonable list of available Pokemon shrinks further.

I Choose You Venonat #257!

What this means in practice is that I end up going weeks without seeing anything new.  Since finding new things is my core reward cycle in Pokemon, it really drags down my desire to keep playing.  There also seems to be a huge gulf that you fall off into after level 20.  I am just shy of dinging 21, but it has taken roughly a month of casual capturing to get me through the level.  I wish the app kept general stats of how many of each Pokemon you have caught because I am absolutely certain that if you added up the number of Pidgey and Zubat caught… they would together be around one thousand… with Zubat making up the lions share of those.  That is the core problem I am having is that I would say at least 60% of the Pokemon that I see on a daily basis… I cannot really muster the care to even try and catch.  This means I still get vaguely excited when I see my hundredth Venonat or Doduo because they aren’t yet another Rattata.  Even then I have caught enough of each to evolve four into Venomoth and three into Dodrio.  The other big challenge that I am having is the extreme heat going on right now, which severely limits the amount of time I am willing to go out hunting for critters.  The heat index the last few weeks has been hovering in the 110s, and that really is not conducive to going out and catching them all.  So instead I am mostly limited to checking my phone quickly when I pull into a parking lot, or on my way walking into work.

There is also still the problem that a lot of the world is a complete and total wasteland with nothing interesting in it.  We talked about this a bit on the podcast, but the game only seems to reward you for going to places literally everyone else is going.  So that means once a hot spot is found, then that becomes the prime real estate that EVERYONE goes to… which only cause the problem to snowball.  There is an open air mall here, and a handful of parks… that are sheer madness over lunch with people hanging out in the cars idling with the AC on near the pokestops that have lures running on them.  The game favors high cellular activity so much, that most of the rest of my area is completely devoid of anything of interest apart from random basepop trashmon.   The other main issue with this is that the game fails to capture the exploration aspect of the original source material.  In Pokemon I knew that going out into new areas, meant that I would be getting a new mix of the available critters.  So simply going over a zone, meant that while I might have 40% of the Pokemon be something I recognize, there would be 60% that were new and interesting.  That simply does not relate to the real world version with Go, because no matter any amount of reasonable movement around my area provides me a significantly different assortment of “mon”.  I can and have traveled an hour in roughly every direction from my home base… and still see exactly the same mix.  This tells me that their “regions” are just too large and generic, and there are not that many valuable sub region feature sets identified.  Oklahoma is a grassy wasteland to Niantic, so for the most part we get exactly the same assortment regardless if we are hanging out at a lake, or in the rocky canyon maze of Chandler Park.

High Pop Zones

I feel like at some level they decided that the games works well in San Francisco and New York… so it must work great everywhere else.  The problem there is the bulk of this country has nothing in common with San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, etc.  Most of the country is not a high population center, but instead a tapestry of smaller cities and wide swaths of countryside.  In those places the experience is miserable.  I have it far better than so many of my friends, but still it is maddening to roam around and see three things on the new “sightings” radar, and none of them are actually interesting.  There are so many reports that Pokemon Go usage is declining… and I can absolutely see it.  The game is extremely fun for the first few weeks, but once the new wears off… if you are not one of those players motivated to go out and capture gyms…  then there really is a constantly shrinking pool of interesting game play.  Right now as it stands they need to seriously adjust the reward systems in this game, and tweak it so that if you happen to go someplace that literally no one has ever gone before…  you should be rewarded with something awesome at the end of that journey.  The game itself is about getting out, exploring and more than anything moving.  Right now I feel like it does an extremely poor job of incentivizing me to leave my house, because if in my walk I only encounter two Pokemon it feels like a waste of my time when I could simply be chilling out and playing some other game.  They need to find a way to reward players for going to big social hubs, but also find ways to make it rewarding for players to get off the beaten path.  As always I am curious to hear your own thoughts.  I didn’t include any screenshots because I always hate trying to integrate in cellular format vertical screenshots into a blog that tends to favor landscape mode.

 

Peak Pokemon

Nothing but Zubats

AWildZubat

There are several news outlets reporting that Pokemon Go has reached its peak and is now starting to trend downwards.  This is zero surprising to me, simply because it would be hard for any game to reach this level of viral saturation… and then somehow manage to sustain it.  There are a lot of factors at play here, not the least of which is our apparent short attention span when it comes to internet fueled phenomena.  That said I personally am still playing it quite regularly, but with a lot less of the reckless abandon.  On my drive into work every morning there are still a couple of parking lots I pop by and check that have given me good finds in the past.  However I am largely not doing the evening walking thing, because we have had a streak of 100 degree days with some silly humidity going on.  Whenever I stop anywhere however I still habitually whip out the phone to check if there is anything interesting around.  I’ve made several trips to local hot spots in a constant search of something new.  The game however has a lot of problems standing in front of it, and I believe that they more than anything are what is standing in the way of player retention.  The truth be told, I feel like we are at a point of being rolled out to every market that really makes a difference, and that was probably never the intention… or at least not this soon.  However the social pressure of players wanting to play desperately, and being willing to find other ways to do so… meant that if they did not push to other territories that they were ultimately losing their shot at that income stream.

The biggest problem with this game is that the experience is not equitable.  I count myself lucky that I work in a town of 500,000 and live in a metro area of roughly 1 million.  That said other than a dozen “hot spots”, Tulsa seems to be a wasteland of Pidgey, Rattata, Weedle and oh so many Zubats.  When you get out to the suburbs where I live, even those seem to be few and far between that when I go on a walk I am catching them more out of a sense of boredom than any desire to actually waste the pokeballs on them.  Similarly I get excited when I see the next tier of “mostly trash” Pokemon in the form of the Doduo, Caterprie, Venonat, and Spearow because it breaks up the monotony of an ocean of Pidgey candy.  I said that I count myself lucky, because as miserable as it is to go a week without seeing anything interesting… I am still sitting just shy of level 20 with 76 Pokemon caught and 77 seen.  Thusfar “the one that got away” was a Dratini that I lost due to the once super common “pokeball lock up”, where the screen would freeze on catch and you had either caught the Pokemon or not, but had no real second chance because you would have to restart the app to get control again.  The folks that are in really dire straights are those who are unlucky enough to live in rural areas.  I know when I have traveled to various small towns here in Oklahoma I have seen nothing but the regular assortment of random trash Pokemon, even surrounding Pokestops.

Servers On Fire

Another huge problem up until this point is that the servers have been anything but reliable.  Another way that I am extremely lucky is that I have a wife who is super understanding about my desire to go hunting invisible creatures.  She has suggested multiple times that we take road trips to check out other areas and see if maybe I can get far enough out of our zone to find something new and interesting.  The problem there is that until this week you never really could rely on the servers actually being up at any given moment.  It is impossible to tell the difference between what is just the servers on fire from usage, and what is Niantic actually performing maintenance.  The reason being that the company behind this game seems to think the best policy is zero communication with their customers about basic up time information.  So the one time a few weeks back when we actually decided to take a road trip, the servers looked fine when we left our house.  Then by the time we actually reached our destination I could not catch anything without getting a string of constant application lockups due to the servers not responding.  I went to a park that I thought would be loaded with Pokemon, and ultimately it was… however after trying to catch four things and getting four pokeball lockups, I gave up and headed home frustrated.

Now when I say that the experience is not equitable, I think it is worth mentioning the experience that the faction of AggroChat is having up in Seattle.  They seem to have a cavalcade of hot and cold running Pokemon all of the time.  Tam apparently lives across from some park that is an absolute hot bed of activity in the evening, and while we have those here they are nowhere near my house, and would be horribly awkward to drive to at 9/10 pm at night.  Here in Tulsa there is a reddit that keeps tabs on what folks have seen and caught… and I know in Seattle they seem to be regularly catching things that we have never seen.  So ultimately I feel like they need to tweak the base population to be a little more fair, and a lot less based on cellular activity which was the case with Ingress.  I am sure this game is a phenomenal experience in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and Chicago…  but significantly less for those of us stuck in smaller population centers.  So if we have reached “Peak Pokemon”, I feel like a good chunk of it comes from the frustration of wanting to play… and when you finally can keep connected to the servers, the only thing you see are the same critters you see everywhere.   My kingdom for a Vulpix or I would quite literally wet myself if I probably saw a Pikachu or a Charmander.

Still Playing

All of this said… I am still very much interested in this game.  The part of Pokemon that I enjoy the most is roaming around and catching new things, and for the most part this app lets me do ONLY that.  However at some point I am going to get bored with the assortment of common and slightly less common Pokemon that I can regularly find here.  I caught a Machoke on Monday, and that had been the first new wild Pokemon I had seen in over two weeks.  Most of the new finds I am getting, are through sheer brute force evolution of less common critters.  For example I got an Arbok yesterday, by finally getting enough candy to evolve and Ekans.  While in part I am happy to tick off another checkbox in the Pokedex… I would have far rather seen an Arbok in the wild, or a Seaking, or a Gloom… or the countless other evolutions I have finally gotten enough candy to do.  I am admittedly jealous of the folks who live in active enough areas to see that sort of stuff in the wild, without actually resorting to making Pokemon Go into a lifestyle.  Sure there are folks that have been hanging out at the handful of hot spots every single night here in Tulsa, and I am certain they have seen some pretty awesome stuff.  However what I am looking for is a game that I can play in the times between going and doing other things, and for the most part this game fits that bill awesomely.  I am just hoping that at some point they give me something more interesting to see than another Rattata.  Right now my app is telling me that I have caught 660 Pokemon, and quite literally I figure at least 300 of those have been Zubats.  Largely I am just hoping at some point the game changes in a way that makes me still have hope that I will find something interesting in the wild.  That is a huge part of what has nerfed my nightly walks is knowing that a trip around the neighborhood is maybe going to get me a couple Pidgeys, a Rattata and if I am super lucky an Eevee.  I am curious what your own experiences have been?  Are you having much luck “catching them all”?

 

Real Life “Mons”

PokeCat

Garden Guardian

PokeCat

Yesterday was an interesting day for a bunch of reasons… not the least of which was the massive gale force storm that blew through downtown Tulsa.  Over lunch yesterday I decided to go for a walk in Woodward Park in a vague attempt to catch some new Pokemon.  Unfortunately the entire time I was there it seemed as though the servers were acting up horribly.  The park is littered with a dozen or so stops, and most of them were not loading for me when I attempted to spin them.  So I roamed around a bit in the 94 degree heat and humidity and finally wound my way around to the Linneaus garden where I met the adorable cat above.  I am guessing it belongs to someone in the neighborhood behind the park because it is very much obviously a pet… and obviously one that has been tagged to roam freely.  This is also where I encountered what I believe were my first geohackers.  Pokemon Go has had a few unofficial releases as folks have modded it like the somewhat humorously named Pokemon Go Anywhere that lets you click to move.  This is obviously a one way trip to ban city because it will be relatively trivial for Niantic to determine these folks are running an unofficial release of the game.

However there is a whole other batch of folks that have installed fake gps tools on their rooted android phones, that allow them to essentially teleport to anywhere in the world.  This is the sort of behavior I think I was experiencing yesterday at lunch.  The Linnaeus Garden is a Poke Gym and is out of range of any of the nearby parking lots and streets.  As a result the only real way to go over there and check on it is to get out of your car and walk up to the path leading into it.  While I was there it was just me and this cat, and no one else within range of the Pokestop.  When I rolled up on it the stop was Blue so I opted to plop down in a bench and do some battling to increase its prestige levels.  The adorable cat came up and was friendly and I managed to add a few hundred prestige points before I got bored and wandered off.  As I was walking out of the garden area, the gym flipped from Blue level 3 to Red level 3 instantly… still zero people around.  So either someone was registering legitimately wrong on the GPS, or someone was actually geohacking to take over the gym.  This makes me wonder just how many gyms are being flipped by folks cheating like this?

After this incident I made my way to the car and was just about to leave the park, when I gave the app one last check.  While I had really found nothing of interest the entire time in the park, suddenly there was a Bulbasaur within a single footprint away from my vehicle.  So I hopped back out of the car, locked it and began the search.  There are lots of supposed methods to make tracking down a Pokemon easier, but I largely just wander around aimlessly until I find it.  Within a few minutes of going the wrong direction I finally doubled back and found it rather quickly.  After that it was a lot of wasted Pokeballs before I managed to catch the orange border critter and make the trip to the park not a complete failure.  I grabbed lunch really quickly and headed back to the office where I was greeted with this giant wall of evil looking storm clouds.  As I pulled into the parking garage the tornado siren was blowing… and in true Oklahoma fashion there was some guy out there live streaming the storm rolling into the downtown area from his phone.  When I got up to my floor everyone had been told to stay in the central area and away from the windows.  Shortly after that they called the all clear on the tornado warning, but the storm still raged on for two and a half hours.  From what I hear there is quite a lot of damage in various areas of town from the straight line winds, that can be just as destructive as a tornado.

Big Bunny Returns

BigBunnyReturns

I’ve talked about my love of our backyard and all of the critters that show up there periodically.  There is one however that I love above all of the rest… and that is big bunny.  Yeah I realize it is kinda a stupid name for him, but he is literally a massive bunny as seen above in the phone.  After the storms blew through apparently he decided to hang out in our backyard for awhile.  A few months back he essentially called our backyard home for a few days… and since then I have seen him all over the neighborhood so I am guessing this is a shared phenomena.  Firstly I am shocked and amazed that any rabbit would survive this long in our environment to get that damned big.  Secondly… we’ve wondered if he is a pet that someone let loose because he seems super chill around human beings.  All of this said… I may or may not have walked over to the grocery store with no purpose other than to buy something to feed the Rabbit.  When I got back he was nowhere to be seen, but I set out a pile of lettuce leaves on the deck and then thirty minutes later or so I peered out the window and sure enough… he had chomped down on the pile.  Afterwards of course I was told that lettuce was a less than ideal and often times dangerous food for Rabbits so I will have to adjust that.  Nonetheless I keep thinking that if we feed him, he might hang out in our yard more often.

Past that I took advantage of the cool evening and went out roaming looking for “mons” with little luck.  It was quite literally seventy two degrees last night, so given how often I had walked in near hundred degree temperatures… I figured I could not pass up that opportunity.  After striking out in my own neighborhood I hopped in the car and drove to a few parking lots that I have had luck in the past.  Not sure if they were scared away by the storm, or if the servers were crapping out again… but I found next to nothing.  That is until I pulled into the Aldi parking lot on a whim and found the bane of my existence… the Oddish.  I had managed to find one earlier and after a single Pokeball throw it ran away on me.  So this time around I was hoping that I would be able to catch it and finally fill that hole in my Pokedex.  The truth is the most important part of this game for me personally is catching new stuff, and when I can’t do that I get a little flustered.  So I threw a ball and it landed really well…  and got two twitches, before the damned Oddish broke out again and ran away.  So another close call but still zero luck in actually catching it.  As far as new finds for the day I did alright racking up a Bulbasaur, Koffing and Abra taking my total to 58 caught and 61 seen.

Zubat Infestation

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So Many Zubats

Screenshot_2016-07-11-13-50-05I’ve slowed down a bit on the Pokemon Go namely because it is getting harder and harder to find new ones.  At this point I have captured 49 different critters out of the 52 I have seen, and I’ve noticed an extreme deficiency in the number of electric, fire and plant types.  I’ve spent my lunches roaming around to other areas of town, attempting to sort out where they might be hiding.  I would assume that plant types could maybe be found in a park, but as far as Electric and Fire types…  I have no clue at all.  The single Fire type that I have managed to pick up comes from a Chilli’s parking lot… which I found more than a little hillarious.  As far as electric types I have been near the electrical switching station in our neighborhood with little luck, but past that there is really nowhere that streams “electrical types”.  I’ve heard rumors that they often times come out during thunderstorms, but considering we have had several and I have not seen any yet I am doubting that one.  The reality is there are as many rumors for how to find specific Pokemon as there were for how to summon the Ancient Cyclops in Everquest, and I figure none of them are really true.  Given that this is a map based game, in theory everything should be based on some sort of obvious landmark.  Following that logic I keep wondering if I can go to a graveyard to find Ghost types, but I have not been willing to cross that line yet.

The huge truism however is that we have an over abundance of Zubats.  Right now they are way more common than quite literally any other type of Pokemon.  There was a point where I recently had 25 that I had captured and had just been too lazy to hand them in to the trainer.  I’ve made six different Golbats, and now am simply just ignoring the flappy critters when I see one.  Someone has been pretty much chain summoning lures on one of the Pokestops that I walk past on the way in and out of work… and every single time I get within range it is loaded with nothing but Zubats.  As I walk through the parking garage… more Zubats.  All of this is hilarious when I hear from Ashgar that he has yet to even catch a single one.  Then things that are super common for other people like the Oddish…  are next to impossible to find around me.  At some point I am thinking I need to make a trip over to Fayetteville because my friend TangerineDada has all sorts of Pokemon that I have not seen anywhere near me.  Then I ask myself… is it silly to take a road trip just for capturing Pokemon? Almost certainly but it is nonetheless entertaining.

Necropolis

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For a little bit now my friend have been talking about Necropolis, a new dungeon crawler from Harebrained Schemes the makers of the very awesome Shadowrun tun based RPGs.  This game keeps getting compared to Dark Souls, but I am not completely sure why the reference.  Essentially this is a rogue-like dungeon crawler with procedural generated levels.  This is the sort of game where you are not designed to get terribly attached to your character, because more than likely you are going to die quickly and often.  Similar to Rogue Legacy it has a mechanic built into the game where your deaths serve a greater purpose in that your actions garner favor with the deity of the labyrinth.  You can then purchase abilities at the scriptorium which tweak your experience allowing you to have more health, or hit harder all in an attempt to fine tune your character experience.  The concept of the game seems right down my alley, and the art style is reminiscent of Journey or any number of not quite realistic cartoon shaded games of late.

Necropolis 2016-07-12 22-08-31-40

The game however has a bunch of problems, that I am not sure if they are intentional or if they are simply bugs that will be patched out later.  Combat feels more than a little bit maddening at times in that there seems to be no limit to the number of things that can be registering attacks on you at the same time.  So this means that if you are unlucky you might round the corner and get six or seven mobs swarming you at the wrong moment.  Normally speaking in brawler type games this is manageable in that the game gives you invincibility frames in the form of being staggered… so that not every thing attacking you can actually register damage on you at the same time.  In Necropolis you can absolutely get surrounded and watch your health go from full to zero in seconds.  However for all I know there might be a scriptorium ability that changes how that works.  The other slightly frustrating thing is that combat feels a little sluggish.  I played with an xbox controller and right bumper is the light attack and right trigger the heavy.  Even light attacks are nowhere near as responsive as I would hope them to be, and heavy attacks require near perfect timing because of the extremely lengthy swing animation.  All of this said…  I enjoyed the little bit that I played and I want to figure out more of the game.  There are two kinds of unfair gameplay… the ones that make you just want to throw your controller across the room, and then the ones that make you want to figure out how to avoid the pitfalls of the system.  This at least for me appears to be the later, so I fully expect to play a bit more tonight and get a bit further.

 

Pokemon By Night

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No Seriously… Walking Simulator

PokemonGoReleaseActivity

Screenshot_2016-07-07-17-23-48I named yesterday’s blog post “Walking Simulator” half jokingly, but after two days of Pokemon after dark…  it is really a truthful statement.  You can look at my activity tracker and see very clearly the impact of the launch of Pokemon Go.  While my wife thinks I am insane, I am however outside and getting exercise without really noticing it.  Last night for example I walked quite literally for an hour without really realizing it.  Sure I had broken a sweat because it was 94* outside, but thankfully there was a nice wind to greet me oddly enough in pretty much any direction.  The best part about this is… I am not the only one doing it.  This is the second night I have gone wandering, and Wednesday night I was really hoping I would not run into server issues.  However for the most part starting around 8 pm the server seemed to be more or less stable, or enough so for me to risk trying to find some of the night spawning critters.  Additionally bolstering that confidence, my friend Void had posted a link to a fledgling server status page for the Pokemon Go gateways.  So with all bars reporting green I ventured out into the world.
I had barely made it into the neighborhood next to mine when I saw a couple walking along staring at a phone…  and a few minutes later I saw the unmistakable action of throwing pokeballs at some critter.  I smiled and held up my phone and they held up theirs as a sign of recognition, which caused a round of chuckles from all of us.  It turns out they too were trying to take advantage of the shockingly good server connectivity and had just managed to catch a Pidgeot.  Unfortunately the critter did not seem to still be around but a few minutes later I found my own rareish Pokemon in the form of a Weepinbell.  I say rareish, largely because don’t know how common this or that Pokemon is… but the pre-evolved forms seem to be significantly rarer than the base forms.  I found this list last night which attempts to list the pokemon caught in beta based on relative rarity.  Which also made me super happy about one of my finds earlier in the day.  For the last several weeks I have been going by after work each evening to water the flowers of a friend of ours while she is out of town.  I had just pulled into the parking lot in front of her apartment and thought… I should probably check to see if there are any cool Pokemon around.  Sitting right there almost literally in the parking space was a Tauros, a critter I had never actually caught in any of the games.  It took a bunch of tries but sure enough a mixture of RNG and finger crossing got me that third little twitch that meant it was captured.

Screenshot_2016-07-07-08-14-53At this point I have seen twenty eight different pokemon, and captured twenty six of them.  I missed a Butterfree on that first lunch outing, and then failed to catch the Fearow Wednesday night due to server issues.  I say not bad at all for two days worth of effort and doing all of this legitimately… aka not using the cash shop items to “attract” Pokemon.  Some things I have learned through hitting Pokestops apparently forty seven times based on the stats kept within the app.  Pokeballs are plentiful… I now have over 140 of them so don’t fret too much about tossing several to catch a single Pokemon.   Potions and Revives are also plentiful given that I have 54 and 36 respectively.  Pokestops also seem to have the rare chance of giving you some cash shop type items given that I have received at least one incense off of a stop, and one of the 3 charge extra incubators that let you keep more than one egg going at once.  Things I have learned from friends is that apparently you can bolster the defenses of a gym held by your team if you place Pokemon on it as well.  Right now the gym in my town is held by the team I ultimately chose, Mystic aka Team Blue.  So on my way out of town this morning I plan on stopping by just long enough to slap that hefty Weepinbell I got last night on the roster.  I have no clue if I will lose said Pokemon or if it will return to me if fallen, or if I can heal it with potions etc.  I do however know that if you hold a gym for your team you can earn pokecoins the cash shop currency as well as other in game items.

The other thing worth talking about this morning is that through a combination of friends and a super helpful Reddit post I finally have a handle on what the tracking system in the game means.  When you click in the lower right corner of the screen you can see which Pokemon are near you.  Each of them will show a number of tracks out beside them with the default seeming to be three.  Number one thing I learned is that the list is sorted in order of distance from you, meaning the ones at the top of the list are closer than the ones at the bottom.  Second thing I learned is that if you click on a Pokemon it begins to track that specific one.  If while tracking your bar flashes, that means you are walking in the direction towards the Pokemon, and as you get closer the number of tracks will start decreasing.  When you eventually get down to zero tracks it should spawn near you, and allow you to try and capture it.  This would have been extremely helpful to know last night as I seemed to be wandering around trying to find one of two Psyduck in my neighborhood.  I will say years of seeing silhouettes of Pokemon have greatly prepared all of us for knowing precisely what might be in our neighborhood based on the outline.  Last night there also appeared a blip of a Tentacool for a bit, but I never found it either.  Hopefully you too are getting out and walking and finding your own stash of critters.  If you are curious what I have actually caught I am for the moment keeping a crappy spreadsheet until I figure out what I want to do properly.