Random Screenshots #3

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bad News Day

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Goodbye Everquest Next

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Yesterday the MMORPG industry received a couple of really bad bits of news.  Firstly Daybreak Games has officially announced that Everquest Next is no more, and that they would be rushing Landmark into “launched” status this spring.  Firstly it really should not come as any surprise that this is happening because in truth we have not had any substantive news about “Next” since SOE Live 2014.  So when Storybricks parted company in February 2015 and SOE was sold to the holding company that renamed it to Daybreak… I fully expected we would never see anything further from Next. Storybricks was going to be the guts of this new approach at how to create an MMO and allow it o almost center around procedural interactions with he various factions and NPCs in the game.  With that core gone… I could not reason how the game would function, and deliver even half of the lofty promises it had made.  The other huge concern was the fact that Daybreak now seemed like a company desperately trying to survive under the yolk of evil overlords.  When a company known for grooming technology for sale purchases a game company…  it seems like creative freedom and the broad daydreaming that got SOE where it is today would be the firs thing to go.

The concerns I have is that it feels like Landmark is getting foisted upon us, in an unfinished state.  It had been a couple of years since I last played the game and I popped in last night to see just how different it is.  In truth it still feels like the prototype game that it has always felt like.  I roamed around and collected items and then logged back out because I wasn’t really drawn to stay. The thing I love about Landmark is the community, and I am just hoping that through all of this transition they can manage to keep that intact.  The problem I have with Landmark is that it is a fun sandbox that lets you build really interesting structures…. but I still wouldn’t really call it a game but instead more of a toybox.  Sure you have the trappings of combat now, but while wandering around in the zone the game dumped me in…. there was actually nothing to fight.  Maybe I need to dig down to find that, but the only thing I actually encountered that was potentially damaging were some exploding shrooms.  I am hoping that in the few months left before the official launch that they can somehow pull together some of the ideas from Next and make Landmark a proper game experience.

Wildstar Falters

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The other concerning news from yesterday is that roughly sixty employees were laid off in a “restructuring” within Carbine.  This has honestly been a topic among some of my friends for awhile now, but we were dreading some form of action to be taken.  Wildstar has not been performing amazingly well… in fact they are performing far worse right now than with City of Heroes was shut down by NC Soft.  As a company goes they are notoriously brutal when it comes to closing titles that they deem are not operating as well as they expected.  Wildstar is a significantly better game today than it was at launch, and the Free to Play conversion was more than just a payment model change, but an entire reworking and re-tuning of some of the game concepts.  The game felt fresh and new and was exciting…  for a period of time.  The problem is, that Wildstar is just not my game.  I have good friends who love it above all others, and for them it hurts a lot to see the company struggling.  Every now and then there is just a game that does not for whatever reason “click”, and that was this game for me.  On paper it sounds and looks like everything I could have wanted in a game, and I still think it has one of the best implementations of player housing I have ever seen.  Unfortunately I just don’t ever have the desire to play it, and always seemed to prioritize playing something else over it.

The scariest statement about the whole press release is this line. “These cuts are directly tied to WildStar’s evolution from a product in development to a live title“.  That right there seems to be signalling the end of active development on Wildstar and shifting the title into maintenance mode.  An MMORPG cannot thrive without fresh dose of new content, and while you can do things like add new quests and script events without a lot of active development….  you can’t do things like roll out new zones and raids.  Admittedly the game is getting fresh content with the release of Arcterra, and hopefully this will not effect that.  The other worrying statement is that apparently there were statements floating around that the employees were told to expect more layoffs in the future.  So much happens when layoffs are announced, and there is an internet dog piling of bad blood towards a game.  I have nothing but love for Wildstar and its community and I want it to weather this storm and somehow bounce back stronger.  I am clinging to hope because I know a lot of people who really need this game to succeed and thrive.  All of that said… the cynic an realist in me still keeps saying that this is not going to end well.

 

 

Week in Gaming 10/4/2015

Moving in Slow Motion

This morning I am having one of those days that feels like I am fighting against quicksand, to be able to accomplish anything.  It is the fitting end of the week I have had where so many issues have come up, that I had to deal with.  This week was one where my boss was out of the office for most of it, which meant I got to be the boss.  This is a concept that sounds fun on paper, but after having done it for years…  I promise it is not nearly as entertaining as it sounds.  Being the boss means you are the one that has to deal with isssues when they arrise, even when the issues are of a magnitude that makes you just want to pull the covers over your head and forget the world exists.  As such my gaming was a bit odd, because I needed to vent my frustrations in the form of shooting aliens.  There were many nights this week where I intended to do something else, but ended up playing Destiny all night.  As such there really are not a lot of individual games to talk about but here goes nothing!

Star Wars the Old Republic

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As of last night during the AggroChat podcast I have officially completed the original Smuggler storyline, and with it… I have a lot of thoughts about what I experienced.  When Kodra played through this content I can remember him being extremely disappointed… but maybe I am just more simple minded, but I absolutely loved the ending.  It is everything I expected underworld dealings would be… romance, betrayal, and getting revenge on the people who betrayed you.  It wraps up everything a good outlaw story should, and like the best ones… ends up with you on the side of justice.  Maybe I just grew up with too many westerns, but it felt like it should to me.  My character wasn’t necessarily a white hat, but he definitely was not a black hat… and at the same time I got to do enough things that felt like decisions I would make, to keep me hooked on the storyline.  Now that I have wrapped this one up, I think I am going to work up faction on Risha and see what that romance option looks like.  After that I think I am putting the Smuggler to bed for awhile, no pun intended… and moving on to something else.

While I doubt I will manage to play through the four imperial storylines before the launch of Fallen Empire, I think I am going to make a good college try to do so.  It would be cool to go into Fallen Empire with the special perk for having defeated all eight storylines.  Last night I swapped over and started working on my Sith Warrior which is the next closest to moving forward.  I have to say once I stopped doing side quests and only focused on the character story the entire experience became far more enjoyable.  Not that the side quests are not awesome… but when you have done them multiple times…  they begin to drag on.  As I play my Sith Warrior I will probably keep doing side quests because most of them on the Imperial side I have not actually seen.  I wonder how many if any duplicate between the two factions.  In any case I am still very much enjoying my SWTOR vacation and I think it has been a great way to spend the lag time between 3.0 and the 3.1 patch in Final Fantasy XIV.

Wildstar

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I have to say the disappointment of the week has been the free to play launch of Wildstar.  I guess I say “disappointment” in quotes because really… any time you do a major launch there are significant issues expected.  Wildstar relaunch has not been smooth by any measure of the word.  In theory from what I have heard if you can manage to get things are fine…  but that was not my personal experience.  I fought through the queues twice this week, and each time moments after actually getting into the game… I saw a message scroll across my screen warning me that the servers would be coming down in 15 minutes.  What does not help I guess is the fact that I am entirely focused on the Entity server, which happens to be the most populated.  At some point I will get some play time in, but at the very least I was able to go fiddle with my inventory and clear out my mail box.  I also gathered up all of my new items, and I am almost tier 6 on the Cosmic Points system.  I have premium sub time through next May so I am sure during that time I will play it quite a bit.

Destiny

Oryx is a badass

Not really sure what I can say about Destiny that I did not already cover this week in my blog post about it.  That said I am still having a blast playing, and several of my friends have also rekindled their interests in the game.  I’ve been getting snagged into a fire time quite often and as a result we are doing quite a few strikes to help my friend Damai get geared up.  Also this week Carthuun joined the game, so I have a feeling we will be doing some lower level content to help him catch up.  To some extent I have been working on leveling my Warlock other than doing my daily bounties, and enjoying replaying through the content.  This game is just so zen for me right now… nothing quite relaxes me like headshotting all manner of aliens, and in the strikes I have run I seem to get the lions share of the kills because of my focus.  I am absolutely in love with the Sunbreaker because seriously….  every game needs the ability to throw flaming hammers at your opponents.  I actually even spent some time running crucible skirmishes and enjoyed myself.  I didn’t lead the kill count for my team but I did manage to place second, and I didn’t have the negative experience some of my other friends have reported as a result.  I imagine that the community for Destiny PVP can be pretty horrible, I am just lucky that I have not seen that yet.

As far as today… I am probably going to spend a lot more of my time playing Destiny as while waiting editing the podcast this morning I managed to knock out most of the objectives.  After I wrap those up I will probably migrate downstairs and spend the rest of the day SWTORing on the sofa while watching something on the television.  Destiny has for whatever reason been the perfect blowing off some steam game for me this week.  My hope is that as I continue to gain light and gear up it will stay just as enjoyable.  I have yet to really try any of the true “endgame” content like the Raids and the Heroic Strikes, but I have to say if I have enough friends playing…  it might be interesting.  I am still just blown away by how much better the game feels to me.  Once again if you played the game at launch and found it lacking… I highly suggest you patch up your client and at least give the game a spin.  The changes trickle down through the entire game, and you should be able to see if you like the new feel before purchasing Taken King.  Thankfully there is the option to ONLY buy Taken King without having to repurchase the entire game… but those options are only available for digital copies of the game.  Not sure if you can upgrade a former physical copy or not.  The Destiny theme song however is playing in the background as I type this… so I am going to go answer its call.  Hopefully we all have an awesome week to come.

 

Bounties and Newness

Shiny Newness

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Right now the bulk of my social infrastructure is on fire with people returning to Wildstar.  September 28th at Midnight EST was the official launch of the Wildstar Reloaded free to play experience.  They are going through the same sort of growing pains that everyone goes through when they launch a game, or in this case relaunch it.  When I got in last night, and managed to fight my way through the queue, I was greeted with a “server going down in 15 minutes” message as they were needing to do some sort of emergency maintenance.  This is absolutely par for the course for an event like this, but nonetheless disheartening.  I absolutely get why they were bringing the server down however because the tiny bit of time I was able to play the lag was horrific.

I did however manage to do what I had intended to do this morning, which was rifle through my bags… dump everything that was not needed in my bank, and start to clean out my mailbox.  With the change to the way the crafting system works, a lot of the old crafted items were consumed and instead we were mailed a stack full of equivalent materials.  I had seven or eight of these messages from Protostar, all containing things I have no clue what to do with them.  Thankfully however pretty much everything seemed to fit just fine in my tradeskill bag so I don’t have to care for this very moment.  I was able to consume all of the perks that I got through the whole cosmic points system.  I am one step away from tier 6, and as of last night I got some perk that causes me to gain omnibits faster which is kinda cool.  With new toys comes a new outfit, which I cobbled together this morning before sitting down to right a blog post.  For the time being… I think I am going to stay off the servers until things calm down a bit.

Daily Bounties

One of the things I am still enjoying quite a bit is my daily routine of logging into Destiny and getting new bounties.  I am not sure how a game goes from feeling oppressive and grindy, to fun an exciting in a single patch… but whatever the case Destiny did just that.  I think more than anything it is the increased drop rates that make things feel interesting, because when I know it is highly likely that I will get something for my time spent, I don’t mind spending time doing something.  I love the random chance of finding something cool, and maybe once I am geared enough to no longer care about drops…  it will feel different.  However every single engram that I see glowing in the distance is a chance at finding something to increase my overall light and as such make me more formidable.  Largely my key goal this week however has been to try and stock pile strange coins again in the hopes that on Friday Xur will bring me something awesome and exotic.

I still have so much story that I have yet to complete, and I have barely scratched the surface of the strikes that are available to me.  For the time being however I seem to get the most enjoyment from grabbing my bounties and going to some planet to whittle them down.  There is just something relaxing about this process, and in many ways it reminds me of the way I felt about the daily hunts in Final Fantasy XIV…  that is until I no longer really needed the currency to improve my gear.  There is something calming about having a routine and right now popping into Destiny is pretty much the first thing I do each night.  In the above video I decided to record a bit of me working my way through my daily quests, and that is actually my second attempt given that I had been recording for a bit only to realize that it was not picking up my mic.  Essentially I changed the way I am recording so that I could pull my boom mic out and be able to capture audio while I am playing on the PS4 easily.  The video itself was recorded through my Elgato HD, which I have hooked to a switch so that I can record any of my consoles.   The end product just looks better than the default video recording options on the PS4.

 

 

Week In Gaming 8/30/2015

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Stressed but Still Here

This week turned out to be a shockingly stressful one, but thankfully all of said stress happened at work… and I could more or less leave it there as well.  There has been a twinge of sadness as well because months ago I had hoped to be able to attend Pax Prime and get to hang out with friends there.  However that didn’t quite work out, and since I lacked tickets to go there…  because AggroChat was not apparently qualified as a media outlet, I stopped pushing quite so hard.  The beginning of the school year is especially rough on my wife, and it would have been even more stressful to be travelling during this time.  As such I am doubting that Pax Prime will ever really be in my cards unless for some reason they decide to move it either earlier or later in the year.  I will always have Pax South however, and I fully intend to go this coming year.  I am going to be trying to talk as many people into attending as I can, and hopefully can organize a meetup or something while there.  There were plenty of people at Pax South last year but I was completely overwhelmed by it being my first real convention, and the internet was pretty horrible…  so I missed most of them.  Anyways…  on with what is I hope becoming a Sunday tradition, where I review the games I played over the past week.

Final Fantasy XIV

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Currently “The Rising” event is going on in Final Fantasy XIV that marks the yearly anniversary festival.  This year the quest that goes along with it is one of the most touching quests I have experienced in a game before.  I don’t want to spoil too many details about it, but suffice to say there is a little bit of fourth wall breaching going on.  Diehard Final Fantasy XIV fans have this hero worship for Naoki Yoshida and the rest of the team, and it is absolutely well earned.  It feels like there is very much a symbiotic relationship going on there, and they understand fully just how important the loyal fans are to the continued success of the title.  The game is in this interesting place where it is extremely humbled by the fact that it launched in 2010 and failed to capture hearts and minds.  They are putting everything into the game and leaving nothing on the table, and it shows.  Other than the anniversary event we worked on Ravana Extreme attempts, and I have every hope that we will be able to down him this coming Monday.  Past that I have honestly been taking a bit of a break from Final Fantasy XIV, or at least not really logging in every day.

Diablo 3

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If you are wondering where the bulk of my game time was spent, you can look no further than Diablo 3.  I am not sure if it was my time playing Hellgate London, or the fact that I finally pulled my head out of the sand and realized there was such a thing as a “season”.  Whatever the combination I have been pumped to be playing Diablo 3 again and have been spending a lot of time with my friend Grace was we worked on pushing up our seasonal characters.  At the beginning of the week I managed to get my Crusader from last season to 70 with the help of Grace and her crazy torment farming ways.  Then Friday when the new season opened I started work immediately on a female Barbarian.  As of last night I am now level 60 and making the final push to 70.  That is really what I intend to spend most of my time today working on, and hopefully by tonight I will be sitting at 70 and starting to work on gearing up for doing torment and beyond.  I am having a blast, and I am not sure whatever mental block cleared that has allowed me to get involved once more with the click to attack madness.

Wildstar

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I can’t say that I have made stellar progress since last week, but I am continuing with my new tradition of trying to play Wildstar Tuesday nights.  At this point I am level 25 still in Whitevale but I think maybe I can see the end of the zone.  My hope is to move on past it this week and hopefully into something less desolate.  I feel about Whitevale the way I feel about most desert zones in MMOs.  I have come to realization this week that it is never the biome necessarily that I like or dislike, but instead the zone design.  I was warned that Malgrave is coming up, and a desert… but from what I have seen of the imagery inside it seems like something I will enjoy.  I want to devote more time to this game, but for now I am going to settle with making it a Tuesday night thing.

Hearthstone

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The game that I played that shocked me the most this week was Hearthstone.  I have not really spent much time playing it since release, and with the addition of a new expansion of cards I decided to poke my head in.  This is where I found a brand new game mode called Tavern Brawl.  Apparently you have a different weekly challenge, and this week was essentially playing with a randomized deck.  I played hunter and had a good amount of success.  Playing with a random assortment of cards, including many of the brand new Grand Tournament cards gave me a nostalgic feeling much like the early days of Magic the Gathering.  I used to love the days when I was limited based on the  cards I physically owned and as a result made some odd decks to try and weave in my favorite elements.  In truth I would probably play Hearthstone more often if this random brawl option thing was a fixed item.  I know this coming week there will be a completely different Tavern Brawl, but I will likely poke my head in to see what it is and give it a shot.  This might breathe new life into the game for me, and for that I am kinda pumped.

Fallout Shelter

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My week in review would not be complete without at least talking a bit about Fallout Shelter.  Now I have been technically playing this game for awhile now but since I do not regularly use my iPad, the sessions were limited and I went weeks between opening the app.  With the release of Fallout Shelter for android I have been playing it far more often on my phone, and it has now become my default “moment of downtime” game as I check in on my little post apocalyptic ant farm.  All things said I learned a lot of lessons playing it on the iPad that I have now applied to this new vault.  Where Vault 999 was a relative failure, Vault 861 is pretty damned idyllic.  Through a bit of luck of drops, and some careful planning I have managed to create a pretty safe environment that can absolutely shred raider attacks.  I had a random person show up at the vault that was fairly warriorly, and once I equipped her with power armor and a plasma pistol she has been roaming the wastes dispensing justice.  At the same time she has become a major source of income and the gear she brings back I am slowly outfitting all of my settlers in.  I have jokingly started calling the restaurant on the first floor Cafe Death, because the raiders always go there…. only to get shredded by all of my shotgun toting vault dwellers.  The only thing that I feel bad about is that I essentially  have one couple that is slowly populating my vault.  I have left them in the room for weeks now and they have half a dozen offspring roaming around as a result.

Hatoful Boyfriend

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The last game that I played a significant amount of this week was of course Hatoful Boyfriend, and last night we recorded the AggroChat game club show for it.  This was Grace’s pick and I think a lot of us went into this assuming that we would end up hating the game.  We were mostly wrong as the vast majority of us had lots of good things to say about the game. To make it even crazier this is the first game that the majority of us have actually played through more than one… but given that an individual play session tends to only be around the hour long mark that makes sense.   If you want to hear our length discussion about dating “Birbs” after the apocalypse you should totally listen into the show.

[AggroChat] [Direct Download] [iTunes] [Stitcher]

Too Much of a Good Thing

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Viva Proactivity

Yesterday I suffered from a bit of a dilemma and could have used the assistance of Hermione and her time turner.  Sometimes the stars align just perfectly, and a sequence of patches hit at precisely the same time.  This happened once again yesterday with the Final Fantasy 3.0.7 patch and Diablo 3 2.3.0 patch.  This also conflicts with the fact that lately I have been trying to make Tuesday my Wildstar night, as it is the raid night of my guild and I am sure to see lots of people on as a result.  In truth at some point I would like to get into a rhythm of Tues/Thurs being Wildstar nights much the same way as they were previously World of Warcraft nights.  As a result I game hopped a bit. First up I poked my head into Final Fantasy XIV but did not really stay very long.  At first glance I didn’t really see the people that I needed to pull together a full guild group expert, so instead of hanging out and waiting I moved on to the next thing.  I could have easily relied on the Duty Finder, but since my passions were already deeply split last night I figured I would not really press my luck.

I will be raiding tonight so I figured that I would get plenty of time to explore the changes, which mostly for me included the addition of a TP bar in the party interface.  This could be a huge thing if it means that Bards, Machinists and Ninjas start proactively feeding their tank TP when they are starting to get low.  I know when I play ninja I always find it hard to time when is the best use of Goad.  Traditionally I try my best to time it so that I use it at the mid point in a fight, figuring by then especially if the tank is a warrior they will be struggling a bit.  As a Bard I rarely if ever played Army’s Paeon unless specifically asked by a tank because there was no real viable way of knowing when best to time it.  Mage’s Ballad on the other hand… I could time easily when I saw that both healers were starting to hurt for mana.  As silly as it sounds I think the addition of the TP bar to the party interface is going to drastically change the way the game feels for tanks at least.

Whitevale is Huge

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They keep threatening to hug me.

Last night I continued to chew away on Whitevale in Wildstar.  I managed to ding 25 which technically would have been a historic level for me…  if not for the kitty hoverboard and the snarflex.  Those have given me a nice mount to use since the moment I started playing this character, and have honestly spoiled me more than a little bit.  I am hoping that there will be similarly purchasable mounts from the in game store when the free to play conversion happens.  That would honestly be the number one thing stopping me from alting in this game, is the thought that I will not have my stable of mounts to carry over with me.  While I started upstairs last night, I ultimately crashed on the sofa working my way through the various quests in zone.  I keep hearing that all of the zones after Whitevale get significantly better but this zone serves to be this endless and impassible white wasteland.  I’ve remarked before that ultimately on my Chua Engineer it was the zone that stopped me in my tracks and kept me from progressing forward and I am remembering why now.

I am not entirely certain what it is about the zones design but something just feels bad about it.  If you were to ask me what my favorite biome is… and I think I have answered this question as part of the Liebsters…  I would probably say snowy zones.  If I think back to all of my favorite zones in games, most of them are places like Iron Pine Peaks in Rift.  The problem here is it feels like a white desert more than a snowy climate.  Maybe it is the fact that the entire zone has a purplish/bluish overtone but there is just something off with the lighting.  It has this feeling of vastness that makes me feel like I am making absolutely no progress.  That said I have put a big dent in the zone and have whittled down the available quest hubs to only a few left.  If I actually devote some time I think I can push through it in a few more hours.  I am anxiously looking forward to putting it behind me and never returning again.

Insomnia and Demons

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Big demon spider thing, going down!

 

I had every intent of just saying that last night was a Wildstar night and being done with it.  I had patched up Diablo 3 earlier in the evening but had not actually popped in to check it out.  When I wife decided it was bed time around 9 pm I attempted to lay down with her.  Problem being my body intervened and decided that even though I was sleepy… I was not sleepy enough to actually sleep.  I have this nasty habit of catching a second wind just as soon as my head hits the pillow.  I waited around a bit, attempted to watch some television and lull myself to sleep…  but that didn’t actually work.  Instead I finally got up and decided to mindlessly kill demons until sleep claimed me.  Now that Season 3 is over the pressure is mostly off, and my Crusader is just another normal character that I will eventually get to maximum level.  Since it was a Seasonal character, I feel somehow obligated to continue the storyline that I started and I pushed through the never ending series of staircases to get to Azmodan.  On Hard difficulty the game is still exceptionally easy, which is fine because I didn’t really want to think much last night.

The real question I guess is that in two days the fourth season starts.  Will I finish the Crusader first or start a new character for the season?  Honestly I am leaning towards making another Crusader for Season 4 because I really love some of the abilities.  The other option is to make another warrior, because while I like my monk… I don’t think I like its game-play enough to run up another one.  Crusader seems to hit all of the finer points I love about classes and gives me a highly tanky and defensive character with some ability to damage lots of things at the same time.  I might end up making a female crusader just to keep from feeling like I have a duplicate character in my stable.  The problem there is I am notoriously unmotivated to play female characters in games.  I tend to project myself on every character that I play, and for whatever reason I struggle to get the same “this is me doing this thing” experience when I am playing a female character.  Diablo on the other hand… there really isn’t much “you” in the characters that you create.  You are playing a stock character and dressing them up in cool armor, but other than that there really is little “personal touch” to them.

Week in Gaming 8/23/2015

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Stealing Ideas

This morning I am absolutely stealing an idea from Grace who happened to post something today called “What I’m Playing”.  Sunday is traditionally a rough day for me as far as posting goes.  One of two things has happened, either I have stayed up way late on Saturday night to finish editing and posting the AggroChat podcast, or I am rushing around Sunday morning to finish it.  This ends up making the morning feel like a big hassle either way, as my body thinks I just went through this epic struggle to get our podcast posted.  My brain is telling me… isn’t that enough?  Do I really have to make a blog post too?  At which point I tell my brain to shut the hell up and stop being so whiny, and btw give me a topic to write about while you are at it.  So now I am latching onto this week in review post idea like a life raft and just going with that.

Final Fantasy XIV

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A subtitle for this week could easily be called “failing to accomplish goals” because there is a lot of that going around.  Monday night we made solid attempts on Ravana Extreme, and Wednesday we didn’t quite have the people to pull anything together.  Other than that I have honestly been pretty scarce in game.  I get like this after finishing a grind to accomplish one of my goals, and for awhile now I had been grinding in so many different ways to gear both the Warrior and the Dragoon.  I had all intention of capping Esoterics this week, but as of last night I just have seventy five.  I could spend my day grinding to play catch up…  but I highly doubt that is going to happen.  Hopefully we can return to our normally scheduled Final Fantasy XIV play schedule next week.

Wildstar

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I am still very much playing Wildstar, but similarly to Final Fantasy XIV I didn’t really spend much time actually playing it this week.  I made a minor dent on Whitevale on Tuesday, but I spent more time talking about Wildstar with friends this week than actually playing it.  I am not really sure what was up this week but I was overly tired pretty much every day.  We had one horrible night where the storms woke me up and I never could get back to sleep fully, and I think this lack of sleep pretty much pushed the rest of the week out of whack.  Each night I felt like I lacked the mental fortitude to concentrate on an MMO, so ultimately just ended up playing something else.  I want to continue my climb on the Warrior because I am finding the game more enjoyable than I did at launch, and am actually really looking forward to the free to play drop.

Dragon Age Inquisition

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I spent an awful lot of time playing this game over the week, but my overarching goal was less about actually playing and more about figuring out how to play it from my laptop.  I maybe obsess about stupid shit sometimes.  As you can see from the screenshot I finally left the Hinterlands!  I am actually enjoying the game quite a bit now, but for whatever reason I am not finding it nearly as “sticky” as the previous Dragon Age games.   In Origin and even in 2 I had these moments where every fiber of my being just wanted to see what happened next.  It was like turning the pages of a really good novel, and this game doesn’t have that same feel.  It very much feels like I am playing levels in a video game and I find I care less about the story than I have in previous games.  That is not to say the game is not enjoyable, because I am absolutely having fun… but it is just a different sort of fun.

Diablo III

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I apparently worked the Hellgate London out of my system, but instead it has given me a desire to play Diablo III.  For most of the week this has been my go to game, as it has just the right amount of friction for my mental state.  I don’t have to think about it much, I can just push buttons and kill things…  and that works.  In the continued theme of setting myself up for failure, I apparently decided that creating a Season 3 character from scratch was apparently a brilliant idea.  Now in order to get any of the Seasonal rewards I need to get a character to 70…  before 5 pm PST tonight.  This is not a thing that is going to happen since I am just now sitting at 27 as the above screenshot shows the ding.  The positive is… I am actually really enjoying playing the Crusader.  I figure when Season 4 starts I will make another seasonal character and see what I can make it to with a full three months or so of playtime available.

Hatoful Boyfriend

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I curse everyone involved for introducing this game into my life.  It is so damned crazy, but I can’t seem to stop myself from playing it.  At this point I have now seen six different endings for the game.  From what I can tell I have yet to actually scratch the surface, but at least I feel like i have a lot to talk about for the upcoming show.  I imagine that I will play it some more and go for a few more endings.  The ending that I have not seen is the supposed “bad ending”, which I guess means you have to play the game without much thought taking random birds to do things.  At this point I have taken the approach of setting my sights on a specific bird during each play session.  I have a few more left to do that with, so that is probably going to be my focus in the sessions between now and the aggrochat show.

Heavensward Mega Episode

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For awhile now the AggroChat crew has deliberately put off talking about the events of Final Fantasy XIV Heavensward in an attempt to allow folks to catch up on the content.  However this week the gloves are coming off and we are dipping into a full spoiler episode where we hash out the events that have occured since the 2.55 patch show.  We trace the steps of our characters from setting foot into Ishgard to the final conflict of the expansion, with as much details as we can think about in between.  This is a roughly two hour long show because of the truly large amount of content to go over.  We considered chopping this into two halves, but figured we would release it uncut.  We talk about our favorite characters, our most emotional moments and what we are looking forward to with future content patches.

[AggroChat] [Direct Download] [iTunes] [Stitcher]

Loyalty Systems

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Another Bonus Post

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It is bizarre that once again I have something that I absolutely have to write about “right now” instead of waiting for a morning post.  This makes two bonus posts in a week… so it has to go down as some sort of red letter day or something.  The problem being I am just about to write out a post that is going to make a lot of people upset, or at least I think it likely will.  That said I feel like I have to be the bad guy here and take the other side of the discussion.  What is it exactly that is worth making a bonus post about you ask?  Well today Wildstar announced the scheme for their new “loyalty system” and the rewards that come with it.  Going further than just dangling shiny objects in front of our faces, they also made a fair attempt to explain how exactly the monetization and loyalty accruals would go.  On initial viewing I didn’t think much about it, but it was not long before the twittersphere was buzzing with frustration.

If you examine the system more closely you see that the deck is stacked in favor of players who pay physical money, over players who are paying with their time.  This is most noticeable when you take the issue of C.R.E.D.D. the token currency the game has had for awhile that provides players with an alternate form of paying for their subscripting by trading in game platinum for a months token.  The C.R.E.D.D. tokens cost players $20 and then can be sold on an in game brokerage for a variable amount of Platinum that fluctuates with the demand on monthly tokens.  This allowed some of those early players to get in on the ground floor and snap up several months worth of game time on the cheap, and then has continued to allow folks to play largely for free at the cost of time spent in game farming currency.

Currency Exchange

When it comes to loyalty the equation is very much not equal.  The player spending the $20 for the token earns 4000 cosmic points, in addition to whatever platnium they get out of the transaction.  The player redeeming the C.R.E.D.D. for a month’s worth of premium game time only gets 1000 cosmic points out of the deal.  The initial complaint that I keep hearing is that the C.R.E.D.D. player is paying $5 more per month than the subscription player who is getting their play time for $15 a month instead of $20.  At first glance this logic makes a sort of sense, but it isn’t quite that simple.  In some game systems you are actually selling your subscription token to another player who then sets the price point.  In Wildstar however there is no actual transaction between two players, and a such it becomes hard to really equate the two.  What is ultimately happening is this…

  • Player 1 purchases a C.R.E.D.D. and indicates that they want to sell it.
  • The Broker NPC gives that player an amount of platnium based on the current exchange rate for that token.
  • Player 2 indicates that they want to purchase game time for platnium.
  • The Broker NPC gives them a C.R.E.D.D. token in exchange for an amount of platnium equal to whatever the current exchange rate is.

At no point did the player actually pay $20 for a month’s subscription time, but instead bought in game currency.  The second player spent a fixed amount of in game currency to gain a month of subscription time in lieu of spending any real world money.  The key benefit of buying C.R.E.D.D. will always be gaining a month of subscription time, or in the new scheme a month of premium access.  The loyalty being gained is just a nice added effect, and a thank you from Wildstar for keeping the system running.

The Restaurant Analogy

The deck will always be heavily stacked in favor of the person who is paying physical money to a free to play game.  The “free” players have a lot to offer to games, largely because they make a game feel alive and active.  In an MMO this is especially important when it comes to filling out dungeon finder queues, and providing items for the economy.  However the hard facts are that without folks actually plunking down cash and buying into the game, the games would not and could not exist.  I don’t know any figures for the MMO market, but the mobile game market has something like an abysmal 2% “conversion rate” or the amount of players who actually make an in game purchase.  Even if we are exceptionally generious and think that MMO players are more likely to spend money… you are probably still looking at something like 10% of the players spending money.  Think back to every game launch and the copious tweets, forum posts and blogs that essentially say the same thing each time…  “I like the game, but not enough to pay for it.”

In High School I had a good friend from a broken home that was one of four children living off of a super meager single income.  My friendly simply could not do a lot of the things that I could do, so often times I would subsidize a dinner here or a movie ticket there… because I valued his time and companionship and knew there was no way in hell he would ever get to do these things unless I did.  I never felt used in the equation, or taken advantage of, because having him along made my experience more enjoyable.  However if you think about going to a restaurant with someone who is picking up the tab for the entire table.  They are doing it as a way of appreciating your company, or because having you along makes the dining experience more enjoyable.  However shift for a moment and think about the Restaurant.

While no restaurant owner wants anyone to have a bad time, and they want everyone to get good service…  or in this case the awesome game filled with interesting things to do.  At the end of the day the person who matters the most to the restaurant owner and their employees is that person picking up the check.  That person is going to reap the lion’s share of the special service, and if they tip well are also likely going to get remembered and treated especially nice from that moment on.  That check and those tips go directly towards supporting the restaurant and its employees.  It makes sense that the person who pays the bill is the one that gets remembered and gets special treatment.  So in the case of an MMO the loyalty systems will always be stacked in a way as to reward the person who is willing to keep funneling more money into the system that keeps the lights on, the community staff paid, the servers running, and more content being created.

It Feels Shitty

At this point you are probably saying, “But Bel, that isn’t really fair and feels really shitty” and I agree with you.  It does feel shitty.  It feels shitty when your time spent in a game and your loyalty to that product is worth less than someone who is spending a lot of money on it.  The problem is I can’t really fix that, and I am not necessarily saying it is an amazing system, but just the way these things work.  The term “loyalty” always gets bandied about but I think it is a horrible term to use.  This is essentially a patronage or donation system, where the folks that are willing to pay are supporting the rest of the folks who are enjoying the system.  There is a quote that I have heard hundreds of times, that today I finally looked up the source of.  It was apparently originally attributed to the user Blue_Bettle on a MetaFilter article called User-Drive Discontent.

If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.

As much as I dislike the cynicism of that statement, I cannot argue with the fact that it is absolutely true.  When we use Google, we are making a financial transaction.  They are providing us search results and we are selling them our rights to aggregate the data in those search results and present advertisements based on it.  Similarly when you purchase game time with C.R.E.D.D. you are essentially providing a product that Carbine turns around and sells to other players for cold hard cash.  It is very much the modern equivalent of “sharecropping” where the company owns the game, and you pay with your time spent… and get free rent as a result and a small small share of the rewards.  Loyalty systems will always be anything but, so long as the equation does not balance.

Ravana Attempts

Unbreaking Google+

Last night I had a message from a long time friend of mine, asking me why I was no longer posting my daily posts on Google+ to which I kinda gave a head tilt and went “huh”?  I had certainly seen my posts making their way to G+ anytime I checked my messages over there.  Then I took a closer look and saw that they all said “shared only with you” which kinda defeats the purpose of syndicating posts in the first place.  It turns out that nothing I have posted since July 28th has made it to G+ which is more than mildly frustrating.   I un-linked my account from Jetpack Publicize and relinked it a few times, but I never saw the prompt that I once saw asking me to select what type of sharing level for my posts.  So I took to the search engine to try and figure out what was happening.  Sure enough it seems like Google did something to change its policies with what level of access external apps have access to your account.  You apparently need to go into Settings > Manage Apps & Activities and then find the WordPress app or whatever else you are using for syndication.  This will allow you to edit the permissions for how it will be sharing to your feed, and like I said before apparently the new default is “Only You”.

After posting about this last night it seems that this pretty much happened for everyone universally.  I thought I would take a quick moment and at least explain how to fix it.  As far as syndicating my posts… I tend to take the approach of broadcast what I write pretty much everywhere.  Each of the social networks kinda has its own vibe and while I greatly prefer using Twitter, there are folks that read my content that equally greatly prefer G+ or Facebook or even Tumblr.  My goal has always been to deliver my content as in as painless of a manner as possible for folks to read.  I personally am not a huge fan of Facebook, and in fact I went through the crazy process of deleting my personal account once upon a time because it annoyed me.  However when I started blogging I signed up for an account just for the purpose of reblogging my content because I know there are people who do prefer to use Facebook.  Granted it might get annoying as shit if you follow me on multiple platforms to constantly see duplicate postings, but I guess that is a chance I am willing to take because I don’t want anyone to feel excluded or left out of the process.  Maybe this is strange but my daily posting thing… feels like all of us are taking a journey together and I don’t want to leave anyone behind.

Ravana Attempts

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As is always the case last night was we gathered up the Monday team and did some eight player content in Final Fantasy XIV.  We started the evening by burning through all four parts of Alexander Normal for the folks who are not running it and capping out early like I am.  At this point my Warrior is sitting at level 190 and I have everything I can get out of Alexander other than the chest piece.  So as of today I will be largely running the place to help out the gear on my Dragoon.  At some point I hope to get the chest piece but largely for cosmetic reasons because the Alexander gear set looks amazing.  Last week we managed to burn down Bismarck Extreme and now both the Monday and Wednesday teams are keyed for the next primal encounter.  As such instead of beating the sky whale again we decided to make attempts on Ravana Extreme.  Now going into this place we had heard horror stories about how rough the encounter was and how it was another Titan Extreme where you had to move exactly at the right time and keep repeating a pattern.  Honestly I didn’t see that at all.  Instead I saw an encounter with a repeatable pattern but significantly more wiggle room  to adjust as we went.

We made some serious progress last night, and I think more than  likely we will be able to defeat him next week.  Each attempt we kept creeping closer to the goal, and essentially what is going to be the make or break moment is dealing with the Final Liberation phase.  If we can learn that particular dance we will have the encounter, and it honestly did not feel like we were too terribly far off from that process last night.  Granted at this point we are significantly better geared than the first groups that attempted the fight, but my hope is that we can get in and start farming this guy so that folks can get the really awesome weapons.  In truth I hope that we can farm both primals because there are absolutely weapons that come from both of them that I would like to see.  We had the two handed sword drop from Bismarck last Monday and it looked amazing.  It is the stupid things like getting glamour items that motivate me, and at some point I want to organize 2.0 extreme primal farming runs so that we can start to get folks their ponies.  As it stands we only have a couple of ponies in the guild, and I think my Leviathan pony was the first.  We need to figure out a method because really I would like to make sure everyone gets at least ONE primal pony before other people roll on it.  Granted eventually it would be awesome to have people get a full set, but I would be happy with having everyone with just one as a starter.

Entering Whitevale

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This morning I am having one of those mornings when I am easily distracted.  The cats are tearing through the house chasing each other like they have gone mad.  There is a dog barking and it sounds like it is coming from my back yard… even though it is really across the green belt.  I keep flipping over to twitter, and having to force myself to put my fingers back on my keyboard and type in my WordPress window.  Largely since this is Blaugust I wanted to include this little tidbit because it absolutely happens to me too.  There are days when you cannot keep your train of thought, and I have learned to just go with it.  Start writing the things that seem most natural and eventually somehow you will get back on track.  Last night was one of those nights for me as well, and I flipped back and forth between games quite a bit as the evening wore on.  Before the raid I spent time over in Wildstar with the purpose of trying to “finish Galeras”, which is a bit of a daunting task because there are a silly number of quests in that zone and many of them you will never actually find unless you go wandering around aimlessly.  Bit by bit however I explored the regions of the map that had yet to be explored and I am now relatively confident that I have at least gotten most of the quests out of the way.

That now means the moment I have been dreading is upon me…  and I had to take the flight out to Whitevale.  I guess in part the reason why I have been avoiding doing this is that Whitevale ultimately was the zone that broke me when I played the game at launch.  I am not sure entirely what it is about the place, but it felt like moving slowly through molasses.  I think in part it was due to the fact that Dominion side there simply were never that many players in the zone, meaning that I could never get a group to do any of the group objectives, and the mob density meant that it was super hard to move anywhere without having to fight a dozen mobs.  The zone also seemed to have a higher concentration of the challenger and superior difficulty mobs than the other zones.  It seemed like I could not move anywhere without seeing one of those horrible flashing red shielded mob types that I had to try and chew through in vain.  As a result I have honestly been scared of getting to this zone because it was my fear that once again it would break me.  I have actually been enjoying the content so far, and finding playing the game refreshing.  So hopefully maybe I can make my way through Whitevale because supposedly everything on the other side of it… is significantly better.

 

A Quiet Night

Second Time Just as Sweet

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Every now and then things get left on the cutting room floor for one reason or another.  For example I really wanted to make my post about the possibility of making our own convention…  but I had lots of other things to talk about as well.  In Final Fantasy I am presenting sitting in this interesting position being a part of two very different static raid groups.  Last week in the Wednesday night group we managed to get Bismarck Extreme, and I was absolutely over the moon about it.  This had been one of those challenges that we had struggled with over the course of a few weeks, namely in getting enough geared people online at the same time to take it down.  That has been the biggest challenge for Wednesday nights honestly is getting people to commit to regular attendance.  With my original raid group on Monday nights, attendance was never the issue.  The struggle there was mostly gearing, or at least the fact that we did not have two geared tanks for awhile.  However that changed as soon as Ashgar got his Paladin to 60, and geared it in record time.  Over all the gearing levels of Monday still lag behind Wednesday, but we found out this week that it apparently doesn’t really matter all that much.

Last Monday we finished up turn 13 of the Final Coil of Bahamut and started the first turn of Alexander Normal.  This week I figured the plan was to run all four phases of Alexander normal, mostly to help folks get some gear pieces.  I did not realize that we had intended to do attempts on Bismarck at the end of the night.  After struggling so much to get through that fight on the Wednesday group, I honestly expected us to walk away with a lot of experience but no kill under our belts.  I was absolutely wrong, and I am shocked at just how amazing getting a first Bismarck kill felt with my second raid team.  In the past in World of Warcraft, the first kill of a boss is special, but additional kills feel significantly less so.  I remember getting my first 10 man Arthas kill several months ahead of us getting it as a 25 man raid and that blunted the excitement considerable.  I have to say getting through Bismarck Extreme a second time is just as sweet as it was the first time.  My hope is that both groups can start doing this on a semi regular basis which will give me access to so many expanse totems.  Now I guess I really do have to get serious about the Ravana Extreme fight.

A Quiet Night

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I had every intent of coming home and working on getting my Alexander drops for the week, but that didn’t really pan out.  I hit somewhat of an irrational low spot yesterday, and as a result I didn’t really feel like being around all that many people.  As such I avoided logging into Final Fantasy XIV and instead played a few other games.  Mylin started a discussion over twitter about the Everquest II Time Locked servers, which I guess was responding to some comments I had made earlier in the week.  The problem being that I was spending the evening downstairs on my laptop, and I guess I had never actually installed Everquest II on it.  There is a streaming client for these occasions, the problem is that the EQ2 streaming client is horrible.  The performance halts every few minutes as the game downloads more assets, making the game experience nigh unplayable.  I should have simply waited the thirty minutes to an hour that it would take to download the full thing…  but I was being impatient.  The end result was a frustrating stutter stop experience as I attempted to quest my way through Freeport.  Honestly this is a dual problem for me, because no matter what I try the new Freeport always performs like shit.  I really miss the old multi-zone Freeport because I never had these issues back then.  Now I generally want to avoid going to that town like the plague.  I noticed both the Neriak and Gorowyn ambassadors were offering me a switch in my allegiance, but I was uncertain if Gorowyn even existed in this version of the game.

Ultimately I need to do some reading because I will more than happily pop to the Darklight Woods starter experience if given an option.  I consider it the absolute best starter zone in the game.  I’ve burned through my stockpile of station cash and I feel made some awesome decisions.  I ended up picking up a handful of the bags that are being offered since I did not really want to go tailor just to make bags, and I ended up picking up a set of shadowknighty looking cosmetic armor.  I have long felt that if you look good you feel better about playing your character.  Finally I spent the last of it picking up the tanky rhino mount, but I’ve never really cared for the way mounts look in this game…  so I tend to have it permanently hidden.  As a result I feel like a bard in that I am just running irrationally fast for no apparent reason.  Mounts can make moving around cities awkward as you ultimately end up blocking some of your view as you try and get into buildings and such.  I am still only level 11 because really… I had forgotten how slow progression used to go in this game before all of the assorted experience bonuses.

Saving Farmers

WildStar64 2015-08-11 21-56-11-60

I could only handle the stutter and stop gameplay of the streaming client so long before I jettisoned Everquest II for favor of Wildstar.  This is a game I want to devote more time to playing because I am really enjoying myself.  It scratches the World of Warcraft style game itch pretty well, and playing the Exiles has this fun firefly vibe to it.  Quite honestly I think had I started Exiles I probably would have stuck around longer than the initial month.  I was not a huge fan of the Dominion, but the Chua made playing them tolerable for awhile.  Personally I still think red versus blue faction divides are extremely dumb, and this game is just another reason.  My friends wanted to play Dominion, so I joined them there and had a fairly miserable time being a cartoon bad guy.  If I could have grouped with them on my Exile it would not have been a problem.  Instead there was a faction wall, and I am pretty much universally against faction walls.  The difference this time however is that no one I know actually plays Dominion on Entity.  This is actually somewhat sad as I can log into my Chua and the Dominion capital city is an absolute ghost town.  I roamed around for a good ten minutes one night before seeing a single other player, and when I finally did it was because there were a few people hanging out at the bank.

As of last night I dinged twenty two and finally can use a spiffy sword that I had been holding in my inventory for awhile.  There is just something about a weapon upgrade that is special.  I could be wearing ten levels lower of gear in every other slot, but if I have a current weapon… I feel good about my life.  There were some oddities going on with the server, because it seems like the opening of the free to play beta made more people realized that the game still existed.  I admit I am guilty of forgetting to log in.  I get caught up in Final Fantasy XIV and doing Eorzean things, but I think I am going to make an effort to start logging in more.  Since I have friends playing over there already it might be easier to remember.  I am trying my best to push through the Galeras content as fast as I can because I am just ready to see new areas.  I did move into the desert region of the zone so that was a bit of a welcome change, although as of last night I was back in rolling hills and farm lands.  At some point I need to do the two dungeons I recently unlocked to see if I can get any spiffy upgrades.  The highlight of the night however was getting to the next Shiphand mission, because so far those are my absolute favorite part of Wildstar.