Regularly Playing: June Edition

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Back in May I decided to make a monthly ritual of “truing up” my “Regularly Playing” widget on the sidebar to more closely represent the games I quite literally was playing on regular rotation.  Given that it is that time again… here is the list of things for June.  I added a few new games into the mix and also removed a few more… even if one is really only temporary.  Doing the thing where I write a blurb about what I happened to be doing in each of them.

Rift

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In a weird bit of nostalgia, I decided to come back to Rift and give it another push.  There has never really been a period of time when I have not actually at least dabbled in this game, but so many times I failed to gain traction.  This time around I somehow managed to push from 61 to 65 and have started on  this mad mission to raise all of my tradeskills.  Now having almost accomplished that I will be pushing into the Planetouched Wilds and giving it a real amount of effort.  On top of this I am focused heavily on my crafting dailies, which often times means I need to venture out into the world in search of Sarleaf and Thalasite.  With the shift of WoW to the Garrison for most of your farming needs… I had forgotten just how much I really did love going off and ore farming.  There is just something relaxing about wandering around a zone with a purpose, looking for the next ore pop and trying to get to it before anyone else notices.  It is this weird game within a game that actually seems to work well for me.  I spent many an hour flying circles around Icecrown or Sholazar Basin in Wrath… and now am loving doing the same thing for Gelboro Reef.  Largely I am focused on that zone since, firstly I know it pretty well… and secondly the mobs are low enough level that I can go afk as needed and make it back to the keyboard before something actually kills me.  I am certain that I could be farming ore while wandering around the Planetouched Wilds, but the mobs out there are truly brutal.  Whatever the reason… I am deeply invested in Rift and its community once more and loving it.

Destiny: The Taken King

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While I have slowed down considerably in this game, there are still regularly sessions of it… namely because I have been trying to get fellow AggroChat member and good friend  of mine Grace settled in game.  Monday night we managed to get her to level 40, and pushed through the Taken King quest content… which means that there is an entirely new world waiting for her of endgame stuff.  With Iron Banner going on this weekend, I highly expect that the two of us will be working on that or at least attempting to show her the ropes of the event.  We also have several more steps in the recruit a friend process, but as we get her gear level up there it should get easier to do cooler stuff.  Other than that other games have taken priority over the last few weeks, namely with my return to active duty in FFXIV and running stuff in Rift.  Hopefully the Iron Banner will be a good event to get me back into focus and moving forward in Destiny once more.  I feel pretty disconnected, and I miss the Thursday night Challenge of Elders stuff horribly, I just had a few crazy weeks with the St Louis trip, and Kansas City trip… and a bunch of other random occurrences that knocked me out of my schedule.  Hopefully I can start to rebuild said schedule and get moving forward once more.

ArcheAge

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In a similar fashion to Rift, I have suddenly become involved and attached to the ArcheAge community as well.  Right now I am largely focused on leveling, but at some point I plan on doing all the tradeskilly things in this game as well.  Last year the AggroChat crew made a serious push into this game, and while we faded into the background… I still found it extremely enjoyable.  Additionally like I said yesterday, many of the early toxic aspects of the community as a whole seem to be gone.  Right now I am trying to get back in tune with the game and try and remember how the hell to do half of the things.  On the positive as I grind away at questing I seem to keep getting really nice drops for weapons and armor…  however I remember that most of the best stuff I had was crafted.  I just happened to time my return to coincide with some welcome back campaign, and I keep accruing rewards into my inventory that at some point I will figure out how to use.  Mostly I would like to hit the level cap before worrying too much with them, but I believe some of them are xp bonuses that I might as well use now.  If you are actively playing I am Belglaive on the Tahyang server, but I am not sure what all it requires to actually friend someone in game.  I am not sure if cross server friends lists are a thing there like they are in Rift.

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

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I spent most of the month deeply frustrated with this game, namely because I was sitting at what felt like an artificial gear cap and being prevented from progressing in the story.  Since then however I managed to get a Void Ark run with some friends and got over whatever anxiety I happened to have about tanking it.  As a result I am now sitting at 205 gear score, and bumping up against the Nidhogg trial in the story.  It is my hope that at some point this week I can get a few friends together and run this and hopefully complete the 3.3 patch story.  I am still enjoying the game, but I lack the drive to play it… that I have in say Rift or ArcheAge right now.  For at least the foreseeable future my activity in game is probably going to be limited to our Tuesday night activities, or the occasional expert or other event that I organize with friends.  I love playing this game… but right now I only seem to love playing it with a group of friends logged in at the same time.  It is still an amazing game, but it has shifted into the sort of role that World of Warcraft has been in the past… that game that I only played when there was an organized activity.

World of Warcraft

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This one admittedly is barely making the list, and keeping its space on my sidebar.  Right now I am occasionally logging in to run Garrisons and get my free gold, but not doing much more other than that.  There has been talk of myself, grace and a few others doing random old world content for transmoggy bits and honestly…  that right now is about all I am interesting in World of Warcraft as a whole.  I feel like I am in a “desperately waiting for the Legion pre-patch” mode.  Largely because I am tired of not having any bank space, and removing any of my outfits is simply not an option.  I am not joking when I say that right now the only important thing to me in this game… is looking cool with my collection of old raid gear littering my bank vault.  If the new transmog system were actually patched in… I would more than likely go through a flurry of activity as I once again do awesome old world content for cool threads.  However I quite literally have hit a point where I maybe have 15 bag slots total between inventory, bank and void storage…. so I simply cannot play Belghast anymore without risking removing something.  So instead… I run the occasional garrison mission as I alternate through my army of alts… and then log out once again.

Things Removed From List

Overwatch

Zero clue why on this one… but the game released and I just have had no desire to really play it.  I am amped about just how excited everyone else seems to be about this game, but honestly it feels like I am more interested in talking about the world and the characters… than actually playing it.  If the player versus bots game were more compelling I would likely play it more often, but right now it feels like to enjoy it I need a group of friend to play it.  Ironically I have a huge group of friends playing it… but I think I am going through a “quiet time” phase where I just want to piddle around on my own in games rather than do a lot of organized play.  The few nights I rode along with people… I lasted 3 to 4 games before feeling the need to run and hide again.  I am certain at some point I will once again get the Overwatch bug, but the truth is I am just not that into competitive games.

Diablo 3

Removing this one again temporarily because well…. the season is over.  I have accomplished everything I could ever hope to accomplish, and now is the quiet time until the next patch.  This will be returning once again as another season starts and we all go through the crazy happy madness that is a season launch.  For a bit I was still farming for pets and such, but with the addition of several games this got removed from the docket.  I still very much love this game and look forward to adding it back to the list, but for the moment we are in the off season and the game for me at least is dormant.

 

Revisiting Old Ideas

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ArcheAge Resurgence

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I have been on quite the Trion Worlds games kick lately after coming back to Rift, and that has how officially spilled over into ArcheAge as well.  ArcheAge and I have a bit of a torrid past, or at least it was not a game that I really latched onto from the moment I first played it.  In fact in those early Alpha and eventual Beta days… the game had a less than stellar community.  That however has changed with time and a significant amount of effort by Trion staff, and the community that exists today is pretty great.  I blame Kiwi entirely for me starting to poke my head back into the game, and right now I am largely focused on leveling.  Right now I am playing a Firran Bloodreaver on Tahyang server, however as soon as the 3.0 patch lands I will largely be restarting as a Dwarf which will place me on the Nuia faction instead of Haranya.  Because of the lag between the South Korean and American versions of this game, we have known that Dwarves and Warborn would be something that would more than likely eventually cross between versions…  so I have been patiently waiting.  Of the starter races the Firrans were by far my favorite…  but if you put Dwarves in the game there is zero contest.  So I will have to bid a farewell to the crazy oriental steampunk land that I have grown up in on my cat, and get used to a more european fantasy setting once again.  Not necessarily a bad thing, just different.

I believe the level cap is somewhere in the 50s, so I still have a good ways to go since I am sitting at only 36 and that leveling in general does not go terribly quickly in this game.  It seems like my return was well timed, given that they gave me some sort of a welcome back package.  It included a quest that opens every 24 hours for various rewards, and a bunch of tokens that can be spent on Mirage Island, but I have not ventured back out there to see what all I can purchase with them.  At this point I am sorta waiting until I hit the level cap before being too tempted by the shiny baubles.  The game has so many little systems and currencies and things that can be done… but I feel like I would need to do a bunch of research to even begin to start taking advantage of half of it.  That is why in the meantime I am largely focusing on the leveling game, because combat is something that I understand… and honestly enjoy quite a lot after settling on the Bloodreaver class that is a mixture of Battlerage, Occultism and Auramancy.  One of the big concerns I can remember having about this game is the fairly open PVP system, but for the last several zones I have been in “High Tension” zones and really have remained largely uninterrupted in my pursuit of leveling.  The ArcheAge community staff deserves some pretty major Kudos for turning the course around in this game, and fostering what appears to be a real sense of community in its players.  Looking forward to delving further into it the longer I stick around.

Working on Something

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Last night was largely devoted to helping a friend of mine get to level 40 in Destiny and through the Taken King storyline missions.  However after I logged out of that game I poked my head back into Rift.  I worry that maybe folks reading this blog are getting tired of me talking about the game, but then again I am certain they also felt that way about Destiny, The Division and Diablo 3…  or any of the other games I have latched onto and obsessed over.  The weird thing about Rift is how much it has felt like “coming home”.  What you have to understand is that there has never been a period of time where I did not log into Rift, but for a good chunk of it I was honestly confused by the options.  What I mean by that is there are just so many different things that you can do in this game, and I felt like I was missing any real sense of bearing.  I would log into the game… see my insanely full bags, see the fact that I was nowhere near the level cap and struggle to sort out exactly what I wanted to do with myself.  Then like a sad little puppy I would log right back out feeling confused and frustrated because I had the desire to play… but somehow lacked the force to break the inertia of standing around in the Tempest Bay Canals district.  Granted right now… I still spend a good deal of my time in that location…  however current it is out of a sense of feeling like I belong there, and not out of a sense of being trapped there.  I go out into the world and explore all manner of new stuff, but I wind up returning back to my home base in the crafting area.

WYSBP_Rift_Revenge

A little over five years ago when Rift launched I did a series of posts called “Why You Should Be Playing Rift”.   The purpose of these posts was extremely misguided, and was my way of rebelling against “the man” at that time… aka trying to convert the folks still playing World of Warcraft to being Rift players.  It worked for some, and others it just caused them to delete my blog from their blog roll, and un-follow me over on social media.  The other day I started thinking about these posts and what I was trying to do with them, and decided that it might be interesting to revisit that concept.  However instead of writing them in spite, as a way of trying to show the world what they were missing…  the idea this time is for me to tell you all what I see in the game.  Rift is like that friend in high school that you have maybe drifted apart from…  but when you get back together it is like no time has passed.  Except in this case your friend has quietly evolved and developed a bunch of cool new things they know how to do.  Rift has remained trucking along in the background, seemingly ignored by a lot of the MMORPG players as a phase they maybe went through at some point.  It is a game that seems to keep figuring out new quality of life tweaks to make the game more enjoyable.  However it is also a game with a bunch of scary looking monetization methods that I think frighten too many players, and keep them from spending more time and getting to know the game the way I do.  So while I am adopting the same sort of name that I had the first time… as a sort of revisiting effort, the purpose is completely different this time.  My goal is to show you my readers why I feel the way I feel about various aspects of this game.  I am still working on the first part, but hopefully soon it will make its way to the front page and kick off the sequence properly.  More than anything I guess I wanted to warn my long time readers, that you are going to likely be reading a lot more of Rift and ArcheAge content in the near future.

Of Obsessions

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In Search of Trays

I could start this post off with a grumpy rant about changes to a game that I found out about over the weekend.  However that would just end up creating a general down point for the coming week, so instead I am opting to try my best and push it out of my mind.  Instead I am going to focus on the fun that I had this weekend and the positive points.  The weekend also involved quite a bit of chasing wild geese, which in itself was a little interesting.  My wife is of course a teacher, and over the summer she does what I figure most teachers do…  obsess about the upcoming school year.  For the last several years Target has had some multi colored trays that serve well as hand in baskets, but unfortunately the last set became brittle after sitting in the incoming sun for an entire year.  So one of the things we have been watching for is them to start stocking them once again, and while we were in Kansas City we found two of the six colors, but did not end up picking them up because we assumed they too would be plentiful in our area.  That however was not the case and this past week over lunch I went to check a few Targets, ultimately finding none.  Saturday we wound up at our own local store and they happened to have four colors, allowing us to pick up most of a set.

The challenge with the Target dollar spot… is that every teacher ultimately stocks their classroom with the stuff located in it.  That meant that we had a very limited window to be able to get the last two colors of trays.  So Sunday after my wife got back from church we went roaming around the Tulsa metro area hitting quite literally every single Target store looking for a yellow and a purple tray.  Fairly early on we found the yellow tray, but it was not until the very last store we went to that we managed to find purple.  Ironically it was at the last store… the one furthest away from us…  that they happened to have all six colors in one place.  Had we reversed the order it would have likely been the one closest to us that had all six.  As I commented this weekend on twitter, this is the life of a Teacher’s spouse.  I cannot count the number of times we have made such trips hunting for this specific item or that…  be it office supply stores, dollar stores or in this case a Target.  Over the years I’ve spent many an hour sifting through disheveled bins of stuff looking for that one item that matches whatever other item we happened to be looking for.  The sheer dedication that the average teacher has is just phenomenal, and even more so is the rapid sharing of tips that happens when you get two together.  In Kansas City we rolled into the Target dollar spot and found the obvious signs of other teachers… and before we knew it folks were sharing tips on best ways to clean white boards or where you could find this or that item at a better deal.  Long story short… we managed to complete the set of bins which marks this mission off the list…  which I am certain will only be replaced by a dozen other similar adventures before school starts back up in a month and a half.

Of Artifice

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As far as gaming goes I spent the bulk of my weekend running around in Rift, shifting back and forth between several different activities.  Out in Twilight Highlands there was a limited time event called Arclight Ascendancy that allows players to run a couple of quests to get a currency… that can ultimately be saved up to purchase an Arclight Rider or Lifter mount.  At some point I have apparently completed this event… either that or some account entitlement gave me a slew of currency.  Essentially this event allows you to slowly gather the currency needed to purchase what would normally be a store only mount.  In the past I have participated in similar events for the Budgie mounts, and in the grand scheme of things these are not intended to be completed in a single pass but instead over the course of multiple events.  The interesting thing about them however is that one of the daily quests requires you to mentor down to within the 25-30 level range to accomplish it.  As far as that goes Rift’s implementation of that system is probably the best I have seen because you simply right click your name and choose a new level… and then bam you are functioning at that level without having to give up any of your abilities.  The other thing that I am enjoying about doing the quests is that it puts me back in Twilight Highlands and Scarlet Gorge on a daily basis… two zones that I absolutely loved from Telara.

The other big thing that I worked on this weekend was leveling my Artificer skill.  This is of course slowly bankrupting me, but nonetheless I still felt the desire to keep pushing forward.  I spent many an hour this weekend roaming around Gelboro Reef doing quests that I never finished out there… and farming up Thalasite ore and Sarleaf that would ultimately be converted into fuel to feed the fires of industry.  Yesterday evening I managed to push ahead and get to the current level cap of 450.  Now will I actually do anything with that level other than daily crafting quests?  I honestly am not sure… I’ve never had a max level artificer before now.  At this point in the cycle I doubt there is anything I can craft that is not better than the gear I can get from a combination of weekly patron chests and instant adventures/experts.  However having a whole slew of crafters means that I can rapid-fire through the crafting dailies and get patterns quickly.  I need to some time researching what if anything I can craft that is a damage upgrade… or more importantly a hit upgrade.  Now that I have finished with another crafting obsession I really need to get back into the process of digging into the Planetouched Wilds.  That area is huge and full of all manner of weekly quest opportunities, and I have barely scratched the surface.

 

 

Scrap Collector

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The Wastelands

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The Rift resurgence continues and this time around I find myself working on tradeskills.  Every so often I find myself stuck in a loop, that winds up with me leveling one thing like mad.  The focus currently is pushing as many trade-skills up as I can manage…  and honestly afford.  I went into this little mission with roughly 1600 platinum, and as of last night I had dropped under 500.  Please not this is just on reagent costs and pattern training costs, as I have been going out into the wild to gather materials on a pretty regular basis.  The above image was taken on one of these many trips, this time to find Rhenium nodes in the Steppes of Infinity.  I am not sure if this is even the best place to look for these, but I figured the highest level zone in Storm Legion would probably have the highest chance of these nodes.  Currently I am working on Artificer which as of last night is I believe sitting at 360 of 450, but thankfully it was one of my lowest trades.  When the game went free to play, one of the things that I spent a bunch of my “free” currency on was adding tradeskill unlocks to my main.  The goal is to eventually turn Belghast into an omnicrafter, which is a term that is common in FFXIV but not possible in most games.  Currently my trade-skill load-out looks a little something like this…

  • Armorsmith – 450
  • Butchering – 450
  • Foraging – 450
  • Mining – 450
  • Outfitter – 450
  • Runecrafter – 450
  • Weaponsmith – 450
  • Dream Weaver – 390
  • Fishing – 375
  • Survival – 375
  • Artificer – 370

So like I said Artificer is the lowest of my skills or at least the last of my “make gear” skills so I have been focusing on it.  Fishing and Survival hopefully I will be able to level in tandem as I have done in the past.  Dream Weaver I probably have more than enough material to start pushing it up there in level given that I salvage every single artifact that I get that I already have…. which at this point is a considerable number.  The worst part of the artificer grind right now is trying to acquire gemstones which is namely why I am out in the Steppes farming Rhenium for those every so lucrative Heavy gem nodes.  The only problem I foresee however is that a some point soon I am simply going to run out of money, probably long before I actually hit the goal of leveling all of these things.  I am also lacking one tradeskill on this character, and that is Apothecary the one I have never actually successfully leveled on any character.  At some point I will end up picking up one more tradeskill unlock and start working on that, but I think that will ultimately happen at a later date.  The only real disappointment so far is that apparently this awesome 38 Slot Cosmic Bag pattern that I picked up can only be crafted with a drop from Tier 3 raid bosses, with no other way to acquire it.  That is a bit of a kick in the pants…. but hopefully they will add it to the cash shop or something at a later date.

Low Key Activity

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I think that after coming back from our whirlwind birthday weekend… I have just needed something super chill to do and crafting became that activity.  The biggest problem is that if I keep on this course I am going to ultimately bankrupt myself.  Tonight is going to be a night of fiddling with my desktop upstairs, because in theory I should have a shiny new graphics card to install.  If I can manage to get that done in time I will probably end up participating in the FFXIV pony farm and miscellaneous activity night.  If I do not get finished with machine upgrades until after the start time, I will likely just piddle around in Rift.  I need to get back to doing some Intrepid Adventures because it turns out that they are still a pretty damned good source of upgrades.  I also need to get some more Expert dungeons in, as in a perfect world I would do at least seven a week so that I get all of my currency bonuses.  As far as raiding goes I am still up in the air as to what I want to do there.  There are supposedly a good number of pick up raids, and I would love to see some of the content at least once… namely the new Comet of Ahnkhet raid.  I would also love to get some of those bag reagents to craft up a few 38 slotters… but I would imagine that even now those items are in high demand.  I wish they dropped form the Mind of Madness bosses in Intrepid Adventure, but as I have not seen one yet… I would assume that is not something that happens.  For sheer gear acquisition Hammerknell seems way faster for getting cache drops, but then again that could simply be that people are just more used to those encounters.

At some point I also want to begin leveling my rogue, but in the past my key reason for doing this… was to have a bag maker.  Since going all omnicraftery that reason went out the door so ultimately I need to find a spec that I can really enjoy.  I somehow down the “grandpa build ” is still as effective as it once was for soloing content.  For doing Instant Adventures I am currently running around as Marksman, because standing back and plinking tends to require less focus than getting up close and personal with the mob encounters.  Similarly at some point I do want to level a character on the European servers, and I have gotten my Zaviel character up to 22.  Right now I am largely just opening patron caches on him every day in the hopes of getting extra loyalty, but at some point I want to start pushing him in levels again.  At some point I left the tracks and entered the Instant Adventure zone and it is unlikely that I will ever return to proper leveling with quests on that guy.  The IA is a bit of a trap… in that the experience you gain seems so much faster than anything you can get while questing…  but as a result it ends up with you being severely under-geared for your level.  It also make sure that your tradeskills are woefully behind, and at some point I will have to go on a gathering binge to even begin to catch up.  In any case…  its been a little over a week now since my return to Rift and I am still finding so many of the things compelling.  Even more so I have dove back into the community and am hanging my hat on discord, so if you have any interest in Rift I highly suggest you check it out as well.

 

The True Endgame

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Wardrobe System

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Last night I had a marvelously relaxing evening working on “endgame content” in Rift.  By that I mean the true end game of any MMO… and that is wearing interesting outfits.  There are so many different cosmetic systems out there, but I have to say that in my personal experience Rift has hands down the best one.  How the system works is you have a tab on your character screen labelled Wardrobe, and at the bottom are a number of alternate outfits that you can save.  By default you get one free wardrobe slot, and then up to four can be purchased using platinum, with the second tab costing 10, third costing 50 and fourth costing 100.  If I remember correctly the loyalty system has a number of unlocks that come with various ranks in that, gained through either subscribing as a patron or spending money on the in game shop.  Up to sixty total wardrobe slots can be unlocked however through the cash shop currency, and each of them costs 144 credits which if you base that on the conversion rate for the $19.99 and if my math is anywhere near correct that is roughly 90 cents a slot.  What makes the system so special is that the game saves appearance and dye information at an account level, and simply looting an item into your inventory saves the appearance.  You don’t even need to equip an item to save its appearance, which means if you get a sweet bind in equip item that you are not going to use…  you can sell it and still have saved its appearance data.  Dyes work a little strange in that they are mostly unlocked through cash shop currency… however I believe you have some of the basic colors unlocked for free.  The individual unlocks are at tiers of pricing and are either 90, 270 or 450.  As I am writing this I am realizing that all of my information may be slightly off given that I have the patron discount applied to pretty much everything.  Essentially if you really want a color it isn’t terribly cost prohibitive to get it, however I wish their dyes worked like Wildstar in that they were drops out in the world and not something you simply purchased.

belghast_appearancesets

What makes the Wardrobe system so special to me is that for every single wardrobe tab you can save an appearance that you choose from all of the appearances you have collected, a primary and secondary dye color… and even toggle whether or not you want to display that particular slot.  What I love the most however is that you can save an appearance for two one handed weapons, a two handed weapon, a ranged weapon and a shield with every single slot.  That means when you are running around in this outfit and you switch specs to something that uses a sword and board, or something that dual wields… you don’t have jarring change in appearance, nor do you have the odd feeling of running around and fighting with a shield but it still shows your two handed weapon.  When you pick up any item, or look at an item in the crafting or auction pane you see a little note that tells you if you have collected the appearance for it yet.   What makes collecting gear so damned fun for me at least is that they have created this tab called “Appearance Sets” that tells which pieces you are missing from each set.  For the completionists there are a number of achievements tied to the collection of various sets as well.  I have lots of singlets and partial sets but you can see that as of last night I have completed 30 of 323 available item sets.  The only thing that I wish it showed… was where you could actually get that specific appearance item be it crafting or drops.  That said the Rift team gets amazing marks for me in the way this system works and feels to use.  What makes everything better… is that you can use ANY gear type on ANY character…. so I can have my plate wearing warrior in robes, or my mage sitting in full plate.

Bolstering the Sets

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So when I say last night that I spent the entire evening working on the true Endgame… what I mean is that I have been on this crafting kick.  Another feature that I love about Rift is that I can pretty much make one character do every single crafting profession in the game.  Granted this is cost prohibitive when it comes to credits, but when the free to play system launched they gave long time subscribers a pretty massive cash shop payout.  This allowed me to add everything but Apothecary and Outfitter to my primary Bahmi Warrior main.  At some point I would love to add those professions as well just so I can have a true omni-crafter in this game and to streamline the creation of items.  I have a max level outfitter on my Rogue, so last night I had to spend a good deal of time swapping items back and forth for the creation of fabric bolts.  Over the last week as I have been out in the world picking up max level crafting materials, I have been spending some time at the end of the evening pushing up my tradeskills and at this point I have several of them at the 450 max or pretty close to it.  This is the point where my brain goes a little off the track here, and shifts goals on me.  When they put in the Item Appearance system, I was a little disappointed because so many of the items left to collect were things that I had in my grubby little hands at one point.  Now I saved the items that really mattered to me, but wound up scrapping the vast majority of the items I handled over the years.  I always had it in the back of my mind that at some point I would start running old world dungeons and crafting old world items to help bolster my appearance collection.

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So last night while watching The Expanse through the Syfy Roku app… I started in Freemarch and worked my way through the various zones of the Old World collecting ore, wood, leather and cloth and then taking it back to either Meridian or Tempest Keep and crafting item sets.  By the point I had shut down for the evening I had made my way through to Titanium and had crafted the Plate and Chain armor sets for each… as well as the armor bundles that were available at various points.  At some point I will follow up and do the same with weapons, but there are far more items to craft there… or at least it certainly feels that way.  I suppose at some point I will go do the same with my Rogue and collect the various cloth and leather sets, but since I am a pretty plate and chain focused person those weren’t nearly as important to me.  The truth is since this system went in during Storm Legion if I remember correctly, I have most of the post Old World craft-able sets already saved, so that leaves me with Carmintium left to craft of the easy sets.  At some point I would like to purchase the rest of the alloy metal sets like Steel and the rest of the Orichalcum set… but those involve farming up a bunch of crafting marks to purchase the patterns.  In the end I had a blast and knocked out a bunch of those things that I have always said I wanted to do.  I love the crafting system in this game because it is just intricate enough to keep my focus… and not a maddening mini-game that requires me tending it as I craft things.  I like systems that make the acquisition of raw materials the challenge, not the assembly of those things.

Racing Snail

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Out of Advice

This month is of course the rescheduled Newbie Blogger Initiative… and I have been horrible at supporting it so far.  Normally I have filled my blog with various sundry related information about blogging, and if you really want you can probably still take some of that as completely valid.  I know this event works, but the problem is… at this point I just feel like I am out of advice to give without simply rehashing a bunch of old themes.  The truth is I really don’t know what I am doing, and while sometimes I put on the front that I do…  I spend the majority of my time winging it.  Sure before I wrote a single line on Aggronaut, I had planned a lot of stuff like the domain name and hosting provider, but that is not to say I didn’t have a much earlier not fit for public consumption blog on blogger.  Back then… I just started blogging, and it is I feel honestly good to just go make some mistakes on your own without the intervention of others.  My original blog was a semi-private ordeal talking about my life, my family, and all sorts of random events in large part surrounded on our sudden and bizarre desire to start camping.  I say camping… but what I really mean is hanging out at a lakeside resort in an RV.  It was real and snarky and sometimes raw… but it had a very specific audience of folks who actually knew me in real life.  Those people didn’t care about my gaming, and in most part would probably find it strange.

So when I created Aggronaut it was by purpose designed to be completely divorced from my real life.  The idea was I would have the real world blog for people who knew me… and then the other blog to talk about my passions.  That didn’t exactly work because I’ve found that while I can write in a mostly anonymous fashion talking about people and events from my real life setting…  I can’t exactly keep them out of my topics.  I’ve tried not to name names in my blog as a sort of “protect the innocent” fashion in part because my wife works in a very skittish profession.  I never wanted anything I might say to reflect badly upon her.  I would say that I probably filter myself a lot, but the truth is I really don’t have that many inflammatory opinions.  What I personally consider ranting about subject… I’ve often been told is just polite but impassioned discussion.  So as I sit down and try and thing of advice to give a budding blogger, I am really finding myself completely empty this year.  Just because I have been doing something longer, doesn’t mean I have any better grasp on how things should work.  I don’t know what I am doing… and it is perfectly okay to not know what you are doing.  I’ve somehow made that work for over seven years now, and I suppose I will continue to make it work for the foreseeable future.  I lack the ego however to tell you t hat my way is the correct way, because I know I don’t even know if it is right for me.  Next week I might get new information that makes me question everything about what I have done for the better part of this decade, and that is also okay.  Basically if you want to write…  just go write.

A Good Note

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Over the last few days I have become progressively more active in the Rift community.  There is something comfortable about coming back to this game, and I find myself obsessing with all of these little details.  The experience has been something akin to catching a movie on cable television that you have not seen at decades… and then having a sudden swell of feelings for how much you used to love that movie.  Coming back to Rift this time feels very much like dusting off a favorite tome and reading it again with new eyes.  There are some things I am coming to terms with, namely that unlike so many games… it is unlikely that I will find many of my closest friends interested in joining me.  As I have learned time and time again… Rift is not really their game and especially the AggroChat crew can rattle off a list of reasons why.  That said… it has always sorta been my game, and been something that I supported regardless if I was actually playing with it.  I’ve said time and time again that Rift is essentially all of the features I ever wanted in a video game compiled in one game… and they just keep adding more features as time goes on.  That said it is also a much harder game than I have grown accustomed to, and as a result for the last several years since the launch of Storm Legion I have struggled a bit to find my place in it.  I was extremely slow getting to level 60, and I am just now getting to 65, so the speed and difficulty of leveling was something I had a difficult time reconciling now that I am extremely used to the fast pace and ease of leveling in the “modern” mmo.  I’ve long said that my favorite time period in World of Warcraft was Wrath of the Lich King, and I’ve just realized that Rift is as though you stopped the clock in a time period before content started to get watered down to appeal to a wider audience.  That is not to say that Rift does not have a lot of solo-able features… but if you intend to play at the highest levels of the game you are going to need a group and dedication to your character.

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All of this aside I am in this position where I am really enjoying the depth of this game, and finding myself with this entire list of things that I want to accomplish.  One of the best parts of the game for me personally is the way that they have changed the wardrobe system.  Now when you pick up an item, you collect its appearance and can then assemble outfits out of these appearances without needing to fiddle with any of the actual loot.  The fact that there are also zero negatives like a gold sink associated with it, means I am constantly changing my wardrobes around, and I guess at times this is a positive.  Within the Rift forums and Discord there was a contest called “Planetouched Style”, the idea being that you assembled an outfit that represented a certain planar theme and then went out into the world and found a location that fit the theme to take a screenshot.  The first image was my entry, going for a sort of “Papa Legba” feel for it… and then finding an area out in Seratos that really shows off the deathyness.  Much to my shock… I apparently nabbed second place in the contest.  So I am now the proud owner of the 5th Anniversary edition racing snail…  completely with flames decorating the shell.  This goes nicely with my 4th Anniversary mount that I already spent damned near all of my time riding.  I am excited and humbled to somehow have managed to win, but it was a great note to end the day on yesterday.

 

High Center

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Gear Barrier

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For months I struggled to find meaning in MMORPGs and wrote about my feelings a little over a month ago.  Then something changed, and I am not exactly sure how or when it did.  Now I am suddenly finding myself caring an awful lot… and even more than that thinking about what I am going to be doing that evening.  The only problem is… I have found myself struggling nonetheless.  Life was going rather peachy in Final Fantasy XIV that is…  until I started trying to catch up in the patch content.  Last week they released 3.3 patch content and I happily quested my way through both the tail end of 3.2 and 3.3 until I hit a road block.  That road block being that in order to do the first dungeon introduced by the new content… I have to be sitting at 200 item level.  Now when I took a break several months ago I was sitting at 190 item level and that was just about as good as was humanly possible to get at the time, or more so as good as you could get without the really painful grind.  Upon coming back I have been having a blast farming ponies with the guild and slowly working my way through the relic weapon quest.  I’ve also attempted to keep running experts but failed miserably at doing them on a regular basis.

The end result is that I have managed to pull my item level up to 195 but 200 still feels like it is a very very long ways off.  One of the problems is in the past when they have introduced a new item cap like this to continue the quest, the previous set of dungeons provided gear that was of sufficient level to breach it.  However the last set of dungeons in this case only dropped 195 level gear, which were upgrades in a few slots but in no way good enough to bring me up to fighting levels.  The answer of course is to run Void Ark over and over until my eyes bleed, however I find myself struggling to do that when I don’t have anyone else to run it with.  Tuesday is the night we run group content as a free company, and on that night the guild is active as can be.  The only problem is the rest of the week it is a ghost town.  So I struggle to push myself to do activities with strangers, which is going to be a common theme in this post.  My entire time in MMO gaming I have always had this wonderful social support structure, from the moment I set foot in Everquest to modern times.  If I needed something done there was always a ready supply of friends that I could pester to come do it with me.  When I am missing that I am finding that I don’t exactly know how to function.

Social Barrier

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This brings us to game two that I am struggling with.  Over the weekend in a fit of nostalgia and such I dove head first into Rift and am having a really great time.  I’ve started participating in the Rift discord community, and picked the brains of several friends as to all of the things that I should be doing now that I am back.  The item that kept getting mentioned is that I really should start working on the weekly quests out in the Planetouched Wilds area.  So being a dutiful follower of instructions I wound my way through the quest content and hit a big stubborn wall.  There was a quest on top of Lantern Hook that involved killing a bunch of mobs essentially before they killed me, and quite frankly I was overwhelmed.  I tried it in a few different specs before eventually asking for some help.  The only problem is by that time in the Discord community, everyone was busy doing their own thing and not watching chat…  so I got nothing but crickets.  The challenge with Rift is that it is not that I have minimal social structure in that game like the way I do in Final Fantasy XIV…  it is that I suddenly have none at all.  Over the years all of that structure has eroded to where I am left with just one single channel that once or twice a night has another person in it with me.  The majority of the time when I say hello to said other person in the channel I get no response telling me… that it probably scrolled by so fast on their screen that they didn’t even notice it.

Rift does a great job of providing a ton of things that I could be doing solo, but unfortunately there are still times where I absolutely need other people to do content.  What I ultimately did was start watching the level 65 channel until I saw someone that seemed nice enough and that was playing on the same server as me.  I pushed myself so far out of my comfort zone and asked them for help…  to which I was shot down.  However I politely thanked them anyways, and about thirty minutes later while I was still sitting there struggling to figure out a way to do the quest by myself…  I got a message from them again saying that they were finished with their raid and that they could come help me.  So massive thanks to Domasca from Faeblight for assisting with the quest and pushing me past that obstacle.  I continued on about my business and finished another set of quests only to return back to Lantern Hook to be handed yet another quest that I had no way of soloing.  It was at this point I gave up for the night and went to bed, frustrated.  Basically I am already standing on a precipice with this game and have a handful of choices in front of me.  Either I can start rebuilding my social network within Rift a single player at a time, and in doing so force myself into anxiety ridden territory.  I can research specs and try and find that one magical spec that lets me solo silly hard content like I have done in the past.  Then of course there is always the option to just quit the game again… which is the one that I am trying to avoid as hard as I can.  Rift is this wonderful throwback to an era in MMO gaming that I miss greatly… the only problem is that era is one when you needed lots and lots of active friends to support you through all the random things you needed to accomplish.  So in truth… I need to figure out how to meet new people in this extremely well established and already stratified community.

Goal Accomplished

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Memories of Other Times

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This weekend saw me succumbing to nostalgia, but not in the method you might think.  With all the talk of the Warcraft movie, one would assume that I spent my entire weekend playing that game.  However instead I wound up spending nearly the entire weekend playing the game that ultimately first took me away from World of Warcraft in a significant way.  There were some events that happened this past week, and I ended up finding out that a friend of mine had passed away suddenly.  That friend is someone I first met during the launch of Rift when they were part of the community team, and from that point on we kept in contact through the other games we both moved to.  Of note… I am never too far from Rift, and I am rarely more than a patch behind when I inevitably fire up Glyph to peek my head in.  I’ve subscribed to the game more time than I have not since it launched back in 2011, and I’ve watched the game evolved through expansions and the shift to free to play and have remained one of the few of my friends that carries a heavy torch for the game.  The problem being that in order to do a lot of the things I want to do with the game… I need a body of active players.  While we have had several resurgences into playing Rift, the last of which seeing the forming of House Stalwart on Faeblight  during July or 2013.  The only problem being this lasted a few blissful months and then once again we were all fading away from the game to play other things… myself included.

Something shifted as well with the way content was structured in the old world versus content in both Storm Legion and Nightmare Tide.  In the original game I managed to level three classes to 50 happily before finally running out of steam.  In Storm Legion I managed to push my warrior up to 60, and a significant time later managed to barely  push up my rogue up just before the release of Nightmare Tide.  The latest expansion however…  for whatever reason I just hit high center and never quite managed to near the level cap.  When I logged in this weekend I was sitting at level 62 and had been there for quite awhile.  There was something about the way the zones were designed, that firstly greatly increased my inborn tendency to wander off aimlessly.  This exacerbated another problem that I have had in the newer content… and that is I seem to be able to completely lose the quest chains in the mix and fail to follow them ultimately finding out I am entire zones behind in trying to follow any semblance of a leveling path.  So instead I would wander about and grind mobs, mostly doing carnage quests… which are these kill X quests that appear in the wild as you well…  will mobs.  This is an extremely slow way to level and after a few hours of doing this… and not really seeing the level bar move terribly much I would wander away like a bored child into some other game.

Instant Adventures

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Now a little over a year after the launch of the game, the good folks at Trion introduced a system called Instant Adventures.  This was single-handedly the best re-purposing of content I have experienced in a game.  There are a number of things that happen while you quest your way through a zone, and instant adventures is essentially taking all of these tasks and placing them end to end…  and aiding the flow by offering the occasional teleport to the next area and the next set of objectives.  The result is this mindless train that you can hop on and just focus on the mission at hand, and in the process getting a bunch of planar currency and the occasional gear filled chest in the process.  I’ve always found these an extremely fun way to level at low levels, because you can just literally hit a button and start getting fed small bite sized objectives to focus on, which is the perfect manner to grind alts.  The only negative however is that the gear chests are nowhere near as plentiful as they come be… and you often times wind up significantly behind the curve in equip-able items.  Over the weekend while recording the AggroChat podcast for example I started a character on the EU server Zaviel and started leveling through Instant Adventure.  I shot up the twenty in no time flat…  however I am still largely wearing sub level 10 gear other than a handful of really amazing items that I happened to went through the adventures.  That said… this is a fun way to level a character and so long as you are riding the train the gear disparities are largely not that bit of an issue thanks to a bit of a bolstering system in place.

Last year they extended this Instant Adventure system to raids, and released Hammerknell as what they called an “Intrepid Adventure”.  The result is something halfway between World of Warcraft LFR, and an Instant Adventure that involves going through the raid and its trash packs…  that have been chopped up and fed back to you in neat bite sized chunks.  The thing that I find interesting is just how many mechanics have managed to make it into the Intrepid adventures, and that the saving grace seems to be that you can simply zerg your way back to the boss after every death instead of needing to wait for a rez.  Roughly a month ago they released the second raid as an intrepid adventure based on the Mind of Madness raid.  While I had a blast doing Hammerknell on a whim a year ago, I never wound up sticking around for long.  This time around however I had a mission in mind…  figure out a way to level from 62 to 65.  I’ve felt like a failure for quite a while that I never managed to hit the level cap this time around.  So Friday night when I hopped into game I headed straight for the queue for Mind of Madness and found myself enjoying both the content I was participating in and the speed at which I found myself leveling.  Both Saturday and Sunday mornings I wound up sitting in one spot for a couple of hours and finally convinced myself to use some of those patron boosts that I had been sitting on for ages.  Sure enough when you add in a +160% experience boost to the already good experience of Intrepid Adventures… the levels quite literally fly by.  Sunday morning about noon I found myself with a newly minted level 65 character…. wearing a mismash of gear I picked up through the weekly patron crates… but somehow managing to qualify for expert dungeons.

Expert Grind

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Now at some point during the weekend I had installed a dps meter because I was curious if I was actually doing okay… or if I was somehow struggling.  When it comes to Intrepid adventures I seemed to be doing just fine with my dps usually running around third place or at least within a contentious pack hanging around that spot.  I leveled for the most part with a high survival dps build 44 warlord, 32 champion, 0 paragon.  This worked great for uptime and the ability to never need to really heal myself, however apparently it is a less than amazing build when it comes to running “end game” content.  Being dumb however I just hit the queue button and hoped everything would be just fine.  The end result was myself lagging so far behind the rest of the dps that I got called out on it almost immediately.  We wiped over and over because we lacked the dps to tackle the encounters the manner in which folks in experts apparently are used to running them…  namely in an ignore all mechanics push the boss as fast as you can and always get the speed run bonus manner.  I dropped from the party and wished them luck…  and in truth in spite of calling me out on the dps they managed to do so in a far more polite manner than would have happened in other communities.  From there I went back to the drawing board and found my way once again to the warrior guides section of the Rift forums.  Here I cobbled together a 61 Paragon 10 Warlord build that seemed to work okay…  out in the world I can burst down most things before they really have a chance to damage me, but if you put me in an extended fight or a multi target fight I struggle.  So I will probably continue to swap between it and my “Solo” build just for my own sanity.

The result was immediate and evident that the bulk of my problems in experts were spec.  Granted I still grossly under gear the tier 3 raiders that are regularly running experts these days,  however this time around I was able to out dps the tanks and healers.  Over the course of yesterday I ran five for six experts and managed to cobble together some upgrades.  I am still wearing several pieces of otherwise crap gear…  but my hope is through running a bunch of experts I will either be able to mitigate that through spending currency or through getting lucky drops.  In my very first expert I managed to complete I ended up getting a really nice purple two-handed axe so it seems like the loot gods have been smiling on me.  This is not at all how I intended to spend my weekend, but I enjoyed it greatly regardless.  Coming back to Rift felt like going to lunch with an old friend that you had not seen in a long time.  I am not sure how long I will be around, especially given that there are other things in other games that I also want to accomplish.  However for the time being I am really enjoying myself in my renewed resurgence in the game.  I’ve always had a soft spot for my Bahmi and it feels good to be flexing those muscles once more.  With the multi-core support the game runs amazingly well on my laptop, but unfortunately still struggles quite a bit on my AMD based desktop.  The guild in Faeblight is empty, and I was alone for almost the entire weekend so that alone makes me wonder if this is sustainable.  However I have the Rift discord channel to keep me company, and if I wind up staying I might end up needing to move Belghast elsewhere to find the support of a more active guild.  Regardless it was an enjoyable weekend and I managed to mark one goal that had been bugging me for quite some time off that list in the back of my head.

 

Bag Bloat

Overflowing

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Last night I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about MMORPGs and she mentioned that she had logged into a game recently and had a visceral reaction.  Upon logging in she saw what a state of disarray her bags were, and when she tried to go to the bank to simply just stuff it all in there… was confronted with the same thing going on there.  She ultimately just logged out and went on to play something else.  This exact sequence has happened to me time and time again and is the biggest obstacle for me playing certain games.  A big game on that list is Rift.  Right now every single corner of my bank is full, and most of my bags as well.  Every so often I have the desire to play the game, but when I log in and see a few hours worth of sorting ahead of me to get my bags into a state where I can feel comfortable playing…  I just log back out frustrated.  In my case the bags are full of non-critical items like dimension stuff and crafting materials…  but it isn’t stuff I am willing to part with either.  So instead of playing the game like I originally wanted, I just lament how I don’t have a good solution to fix the problem.

I am in a similar place right now with World of Warcraft.  My bags, bank, and void storage are completely full with cosmetic gear for transmogrification.  I know that with Legion they are putting in a system that will allow me to save the graphic and not have to keep the item.  However in the mean time I am stuck juggling all of this loot with no real end in sight.  Sure I could get marginally larger bags, but that would only buy me a few slots worth of reprieve rather than being a permanent solution.  So with World of Warcraft, I honestly doubt I will be seriously playing that game until the pre-legion patch launches… that hopefully gives us the transmog solution.  This is a situation I am very familiar with because I have struggled with it for years in Everquest II, but in that case it is simply because the inventory maintenance systems they have are pretty horrible and I can’t remember what half of the items I have looted actually do.  I wish games would have tool tips that clearly identified what an item is used for, because in the past I have accidentally sold that one important item that I could never get back to complete a quest, and I am in constant paralysis when it comes to potentially doing the same thing again.

Bulk Storage

Since Rift is the king of adding in new and interesting systems to solve problems.  I would like to humbly suggest two more be added to the pile.  Basically for me personally I need bulk storage for Dimension items and Crafting materials.  So what I propose is an account wide bulk storage system.  For the dimensions some sort of toolbox that you can dump items into and then place them directly from a panel that collects and shows you how many of each item you have.  In order to remove items from the economy and not allow players to just horde items that they might later sell, I would suggest that adding a dimension item binds it to you so that it can only be used in dimensions attached to your account.  There would probably need to be a limit to the number of a single item you are storing, but in theory it just goes into the void and then is summoned inside of your dimension via the toolbox panel.  This solves a bunch of problems other than storage, namely that the toolbox interface would allow you to see just what you had to place, and even more so what you were lacking so you could go off and acquire those items in particular.  Wildstar has a system very similar to this, and it works amazingly well.  Having something in place similar would allow me at least to tame my bag bloat.

From the crafting side of the equation I suggest a similar system.  When you dump your crafting materials into bulk storage they again go into the void and are only extracted through crafting.  Once again this keeps players from stockpiling materials that could then be used to flood the market at a later date.  Putting them into bulk storage would essentially remove them from the economy.  Once again it would be best to have this system be account wide, so that you could farm materials on any of your characters and share them for the purpose of crafting.  I would absolutely love something like this because I obsessively harvest nodes…  but often times have nothing I really need to do with them.  I simply stockpile them for that moment I will eventually need them.  If I were smart I would simply sell them on the open market, knowing that I could buy them once more if I actually needed them for a project.  Instead I dump them in my bank and they take up space.  What I envision for an interface is a pretty minimal on, with just each of the crafting materials listed out by category… and a number beside each indicating how many you have in bulk storage.  Guild Wars 2 has a similar system that works amazingly well, and seeing something like that in Rift would make my day.  Basically having these two systems, combined with the “appearance saving” systems that Rift and Wildstar already have… and World of Warcraft is about to get… would fix almost all of my bag woes.

Bel’s 2015 Game Awards

Year in Review

 

First off let me start this post by wishing all of you my readers a Happy New Year.  During the course of this past year nearly 70,000 of you have visited my blog, and I am still scratching my head as to why.  Whatever I am doing, I guess I will keep doing that in the next year.  I do have some cool ideas for things to keep me moving forward, but I don’t really want to go into those right now….  mostly because it will involve some programming on my part to make it function.  The thing I have learned over the years of blogging and this coming year will make seven…  is that I am really really bad at columns.  I will start a feature and then after a few weeks to months it peters out.  The MMOs Worth Playing feature was one of my favorite so far, but it was also one of the more time consuming.  That said in the  coming year I would really like to bring it back, and maybe change its focus to be a little big more manageable….  sort of a MMO of the Month Club type thing.  Each week during the MWP thing I was trying to log into that game, play it a bit to remember the things I liked about it… take fresh screenshots and get up a post every single Friday.  As we got into the pre-Holiday crunch time it failed miserably.  Maybe an MMO of the Month will work better because it gives me more time…. though honestly if the AggroChat Game Club is any evidence I will probably just end up waiting until the week before we record the show before attempting to play the game.

This morning the idea is to do my Awards for the year, since we have officially wrapped up a year now.  These are not exactly your normal awards and more like the back of a high school year book…  most likely to succeed etc.  Though from what I understand…. there are a lot of schools who are no longer doing that for sake of potentially damaging students self esteem.  More than anything I want to thank all of you for joining me on this continued journey.  The last few months of the year were pretty rough on this side of the equation, but you all kept with me and kept supporting me, and for that I am immensely appreciative.  Without further rambling…  here is the inaugural edition of “Bel’s Game Awards”.

Biggest Surprise

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Hatoful Boyfriend – Feel the Birblove!

I absolutely did not expect to like this game, and in truth I probably never would have played it were not for the fact that my good friend Grace chose this as her aggrochat game of the month.  I expected it to be largely played on a goof, and even went to the extreme of recording my first game play session because I expected it would be a maddening experience for me.  The end result however was something I did not expect, I really enjoyed it.  I laughed more while playing this game than I have laughed in a long time while playing any game…. maybe since initially playing Sam and Max Hit the Road.  What is even more shocking is that I continued on after the initial play through and ended up getting six or seven different endings by the time we had recorded the AggroChat show.  There has been a whole side discussion since about whether or not Hatoful Boyfriend is actually representative of Otome and Visual Novels in general…. or if it just lampoons the genre.  I think more than anything it opened my eyes to the fact that this sort of “non-action” game can be extremely fun, and would make me at least try some other games.  So kinda like WoW is an ice breaker for MMOs… this might be that sort of Icebreaker for Otome.

Biggest Disappointment

Citizens of Earth
Citizens of Earth

I remember when I first saw this game… it seemed like this amazing callback to the Super Nintendo era of RPGs where you had such oddball genre bending hits like Mario RPG and Earthbound.  The problem is that in application…  the game ended up as this soulless hull that simply was not fun to play.  This was our very first AggroChat game club game… and none of us really liked it.  This was the game that essentially we all unanimously voted that we wanted to play… and was also the game that  caused us to change gears and start letting individual members pick a game for us to play, rather than trying to all decided together what the next game we would play might be.  The game was frustrating from a technical level, but the level of grind needed to get very far just made the experience simply not enjoyable.  The idea of being able to recruit hundreds of potential party members was amazing…  until you realized that not a single one of them was interesting at all.  The part that ruined it for most people was the fact that the main character, the mayor was so completely unlikable.  I think it was Kodra that said that the game would have been salvageable if you could simply leave him at home and go off adventuring without him.  The stereotypes were caricatures were humorous for the first fifteen minutes, and then quickly became painful to keep playing.

Most Improved

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Destiny – The Taken King

What can I say about Destiny the Taken King that I have not already said.  I had no real hopes for this expansion because for the most part I had abandoned all hope for Destiny before the time the first expansion patch landed.  Year one was a grindy mess whose light leveling system left me scratching my head and simply not caring anymore about trying to progress.  I believe I managed to get to Light 26 before hitting a wall of resource gathering, that I simply lacked the desire to keep pushing through.  In year one engrams in general felt few and far between, and you were constantly having to judge whether or not an item provided enough light to make it worth swapping it in, even if in other ways the item might be superior.  Year two fixed a lot of this in the same way that the Diablo 3 2.0 patch just magically fixed that game, or at least made it FEEL better.  That is the thing with me and games, the moment to moment game play has to feel good and also feel like I am getting something for my time spent.  While I could say that technically there is way more grind in Year 2, it feels like you are at least getting something for your time…. even if it is just weapon and armor parts.  I would rather see things drop… and all of those things be crap rather than never seeing a drop… and when you finally do it decodes into a lower level than the face value of the engram.  The biggest change however is the fact that the Taken King has a story… and it is actually a cool one.  Through both the quest narrative and the item descriptions that can be found on the website for each of the items you pick up… the game has started to tell this epic tale of both the Traveller and the Darkness, and how the two have battled through countless races and star systems since time began.  For me, I patched up my game and tried the year 2 experience long before picking up the expansion….  and I highly suggest anyone who has not given it another shot do the same.

Game I Still Can’t Get Into

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Dragon Age: Inquisition

I love the Dragon Age franchise…. or at least I did.  I’ve been a fan since Dragon Age: Origins… and I have beaten at least six different endings of that game.  Which as a person who rarely if ever finishes video games… that should tell you something.  I even managed to play through Dragon Age 2 a few different times, and largely enjoyed my experience.  However when confronted with Dragon Age: Inquisition it feels like this insurmountable wall.  Firstly I think the game just looks ugly out of the gate with its overuse of object shine and its strange playdough hair.  The other big problem I have is that generally speaking I play roleplaying games on the sofa, where it is nice and comfy… and none of the laptops that I own are capable of playing this game with decent settings, or at least good enough settings to make it look not like shit.  Recently I have picked it up for the Playstation 4 over the recent sales and it is my hope to maybe try playing it on the vita.  The first statement anyone ever seems to make to me when I talk about my problems with the game… is that I need to leave the hinterlands.  I promise I have left the Hinterlands… but the main storyline is just boring to me.  It is nothing as awesome as Dragon Age Origins was….  and I think that’s because I just don’t like the Inquisition.  I could get 100% behind the Grey Wardens… I believed in their cause and was ready to go into battle for them.  I could give a flying fuck about being the Herald of Andraste.  I hate this green shit that comes out of my hand… and I hate the feeling that I am constantly fiddling with the magic of the world… and my key goal in life seems to be to close rifts full of annoying demons.  I like some of the characters that I interact with, but some of my favorite characters so far are characters you can’t take with you on missions like Scout Harding.  My party of choice would be Cassandra, Sera, and Harding….  but instead I tend to go with Cassandra, Sera and Dorian.  I wish I knew why this game is just so not enjoyable for me…. but I want to play it… I really do.

Lived Up to the Hype

Fallout4 2015-11-10 18-58-40-01
Fallout 4

The game this year that I was the most hyped about has to be Fallout 4, and that hype cycle started from the moment it was officially announced at E3.  This game did so many things right, and really it was starting with the way it was announced.  They held off to show any information on the game until it was already pretty damned polished, and then they hit it out of the part by saying that it would be in our grubby little hands only a few months later.  In the meantime they gave us a pretty fun mobile game to keep us interested…. which I will talk about later.  Fallout is one of those franchises that I place up on a pedestal for always giving me exactly what I wanted out of the game.  A big open world with lots of little things to keep me interested, and a complete inability to ever truly “finish” the game.  There is more content in Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas and now Fallout 4 than I will ever have time to see.  Hell in the few days ahead of the launch… I played some more Fallout New Vegas and was still finding things that I had never seen before… and I considered that game pretty damned well trodden.  As far as Fallout 4…  everything about the game makes me happy… apart from maybe the main storyline.  The thing is… I don’t play Fallout games for the story… I play them to go off and inhabit the wasteland and weave my own storyline around me as I go.  I thought the voiced protagonist would annoy me…  but for the most part I have been able to ignore it.  I really like some of the companions this time as well…. namely Piper and Nick.  I wish so much that I could adventure together with Piper, Nick and Dogmeat at the same time because I love them all.  The biggest moment for me though was when I realized that in this game through the  settlement system I could finally make the world a better place.  I have a dozen or so different settlements at this point, and I have spent time building on each of them.  I feel like I am making things work….  and improving live as I go.  As far as the Storyline…  I find parts of it frustrating namely that I did not see a good option to broker peace between the three main factions.  I would have loved a “Can’t We All Just Get Along” ending option… and maybe it is there but I just have not found it.

Hype That Didn’t Last

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Final Fantasy XIV – Heavensward

If I had to pick a game of the year based on sheer amount of time I played it during this year…. the award would go to Final Fantasy XIV.  It has been my constant companion… that is until the last quarter of the year when I started to lose interest.  I can’t say I am disappointed in the game, because the content leading up to Heavensward… and the launch content was really amazing.  The problem I have had is like after the launch of A Realm Reborn there just doesn’t seem to be that much to do to keep me engaged.  I guess in truth the game has always been this way… because I remember us running into the same wall a few months after the launch of 2.0, that ended up leading us to un-subscribe shortly after.  Coming back when we did July of 2014 meant we had roughly a year worth of content waiting for us to progress through.  This content kept us busy up until the point of the Heavensward launch, with us not actually defeating Bahamut until we did it unsynchronized.  With Heavensward we lack that backlog of fun older content to work through, and our casual gameplay style just does not really fit with the Final Fantasy XIV bleeding edge.  So we managed to down Bismarck Extreme, Alexander normal, and made some pretty good progress on Ravana Extreme before we petered out and started to lose interest.  What is making it extra hard is the fact that there are only two max level dungeons at a time this go around.  Previous expansion each content patch came with three new dungeons…. and having to run experts by only alternating between the same two dungeons gets old really really fast.  I am sure at some time I will get the bug and go back to playing this as my primary game…. but for now I am just basically only playing the new story and holiday content as it arrives and the rest of the time…. simply not logging in.

Shocked I am Playing

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World of Warcraft – Warlords of Draenor

At the beginning of the year, I had quite a bit of fun raiding in World of Warcraft, but as Blackrock Foundry drug on…. and the launch of Heavensward loomed I simply lacked the care to keep playing like I have done so many times.  In June I quit playing as the chart at the end of this post shows and focused solely upon Final Fantasy XIV, and I think maybe it is this single minded focus that caused me to burn out of that game so quickly.  Blizzcon is a primal force of nature that no one can avoid… and I have to say it got me started down this nostalgia trip that ended with me playing the free version of the game on my sub 20 horde characters on The Scryers server.  This ultimately ended up with me resubbing to the game and I have to say I am really enjoying myself.  I am playing the game in a much more casual fashion than I am used to, and while I am raiding every single week…. I am doing so with a group that only raids on Sunday nights, and during a time slot when I am normally downstairs watching television anyways.  I know there is technically no new content, but what can I say… I am having fun.  Playing Horde has breathed new life into the game because it is allowing me to not only play with friends I never really got the chance to play with… but also see the world from a slightly different perspective.  No clue how long this will hold out but I think so long as I am playing it and OTHER games at the same time… it might just hold for awhile.  I think the key for me not getting burnt out is to allow myself the freedom to play whatever I feel like playing in a given moment and not really forcing myself to keep playing something that feels stale.

Made Me Almost Care About Mobile

Fallout Shelter
Fallout Shelter

As I said above, one of the things that Bethesda did right with the launch of Fallout 4, is that they gave us a fun app to play with in the meantime.  Fallout Shelter is essentially Sim Tower or the later Tiny Tower mobile game….  set in a Fallout Vault.  This was actually a lot of fun for a few weeks and gave me a reason to play games on my phone.  The problem is I eventually got bored with it the same way I seem to get bored with all mobile apps.  There were a lot of times I thought that I would keep playing it, were it for the ability to play on my desktop while doing something else.  But for a brief period of time I found myself caring about a mobile game, and that deserves some recognition.  My lifestyle just doesn’t really support mobile gaming, in that if I am going somewhere… I tend to be the one driving.  Then when I am at work… I should be you know… working and not playing games.  When I am out shopping…  most games simple require too much to get into them and do a few moves before you need to move on to the next area.  Then when I am home…. I would far rather be using my laptop, gaming desktop, or one of several different consoles than spending time on a mobile device.  The one thing that might change this is the fact that I have started spending some time on my new Kindle Fire before going to sleep.  Right now that time is mostly occupied with reading comic books… but I could see eventually playing a game like Fallout Shelter while trying to fall soundly asleep.

Game I Wish I Enjoyed More

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Rift – Nightmare Tides

If you were to write out every single feature that I would want in an MMO on paper… you would pretty much get the feature set of Rift.  That said for whatever reason I have struggled to get into this game since the launch of the first expansion.  I will come back and play for a bit but find it far too easy to walk away from.  I love Trion, and I love the awesome people that work there.  I love some of the awesome folks engaged in that community like Kiwi.  All of this said… I just struggle to get into the game itself.  I think it is several problems, namely that I just don’t have a large friendly and active community to be part of.  I mean I have the House Stalwart guild but it has been dead since the last resurgence several years ago that lead me to go found it.  For a long time my hope was Machiavelli’s Cat community, but during Storm Legion the Rift contingency pretty much died, and it lead us to merge into Alea Iacta Est…. who then also seemed to die out.  During this awkward period I tried a few other guilds, and never found a home… eventually creating House Stalwart on Faeblight.  The big problem that Rift has that WoW does not… is the fact that there is no cross account id system that you can use for communicating with friends regardless of what character they happen to be playing.  However with the recent “Glyph ID” that is now showing up in the launcher… I am wondering if they are crafting that infrastructure.  I feel like I simply have not put in the necessary legwork to find a new home, because it seems like so much effort.  That combined with the fact that finding a workable spec itself is a challenge, has left me in this phase of logging in… playing for a bit and then fading out again.  I want to love this game, but it has been a struggle.

Most Emotional Experience

The Beginner's Guide
The Beginner’s Guide

This is a strange one for me… because I’ve technically never played this game.  The game itself is more of an experience… a visual novel of sorts… than a true game.  Sure there are gameplay elements and mechanics… but those remind me of the video game equivalent of one of those pop up books that has levers and such that allow you to move the characters or animate a specific story element.  I watched a let’s play video on this game, and in that I pretty much experienced all of it.   The end result evoked some of the strangest emotions in me.. and actually lead me to cry at a few points.  I think any creative type can understand the emotions that you go through in the experience, and I know for myself…. who tends to suffer from a fairly unhealthy amount of imposter syndrome… it hit incredibly close to home.  I am not sure if it was a positive experience, and for all I know given the timing… it might have been the start of my recent funk.  The rollercoaster I went through…  was not exactly healthy.  That said I feel like I have to give the game credit, because it made me feel things… like deeply feel things.  Very few video games can do that, and ultimately I ended up purchasing the game as a thank you for the experience…. even though I doubt I will ever actually install it or play it.

Game of the Year

BelsYearInGaming

The only thing I can really give you… is a hearty shrug.  I don’t know what my game of the year would be.  If you judged it on sheer excitement and the eventual execution… it would probably be Fallout 4.  If you judged it based on the amount of time I spent playing it through the course of the year, then it would be Final Fantasy XIV.  If you based it on the sheer shock that someone got me to play the game in the first place… then Hatoful Boyfriend.  Basically every game on my list deserves its recognition, and for the most part that recognition is positive with the exception of Citizens of Earth.  I played a lot of games this year… and I hope to play even more next year.  Game of the Year is honestly a silly concept… and just like I can’t really give you a firm answer for “Favorite Movie” or “Favorite Song” I could never tell you my absolute favorite Video Game.  My mood plays such of a huge role in what I want to play at a given moment…. and if I want mindless destruction right now Destiny is giving me everything that I could ever want.  But as soon as my mood changes… so does my preference in games… and I often times fall back on sheer comfort gaming like whatever MMO I happen to be into.  So yeah…  all of the games on this list… I mentioned because they were important to me, so they are all my Games of the Year.