Attack of Miitomo

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Strangest Social Network

struggling_miitomoYesterday is the day that Nintendo finally rolled out it’s My.Nintendo.Com rebranding of their account system.  For years Nintendo has made some pretty confusing choices when it came to social connectivity in their applications.  The obtuse friend code system in the 3DS was often times more trouble than it was really worth to connect up with your friends under most situations.  The short lived Nintendo ID seemed to work better, but since I only recently purchased a Wii U I have not had a ton of experience with it other than accessing the eShop.  “My Nintendo” is their new attempt at gluing together all of these old systems along with the social media that we actually use on a regular basis… namely Twitter, Google Plus, and Facebook… with what appears to be integration with Instagram and Line but these are not super intuitive.  With this network they also rolled out a new app called Miitomo that attempts to be something along the lines of those street pass apps that let you play with your friends Mii avatars.

The only problem is…  that the app refuses to work on my phone.  They have chosen to block rooted phones from being able to use the network… which honestly accounts for a not insignificant portion of the android market share.  The only problem here is…  my phone isn’t rooted.  At one point I absolutely unlocked root so I could run tethering apps, however since then I restored back to the factory settings.  When you use any of the “root checker” programs my phone gets as clean bill of health, and Samsung KNOX is still showing a valid warranty so zero strikes there either.  So for all purposes my phone is not rooted and the app should not be able to tell that it has EVER been rooted.  However I am still encountering the same damned black screen and crash that rooted users seem to experience, so I am guessing somehow the Nintendo app still thinks I have a rooted device.  The only problem here is… if my phone were actually rooted I could fix this problem easily by using cloaking software to keep the Miitomo app from seeing the root access.  So honestly if I ever want to run this on my phone it is looking like I am going to have to redo the root and install Rootcloak… which sort of defeats the purpose doesn’t it Nintendo?

dancing_miitomoAll of this said I did manage to get it to install on my Amazon Kindle Fire tablet, which in itself is a bit of a goofy situation given that this is not on the Amazon app store yet.  If you also have the $50 Kindle, and would like to be using the Google Play store instead…  check out this video that I used to install the play store and the related applications on my tablet because it doesn’t require root to actually make it happen.  The only game I have yet to get to work on the Kindle is Final Fantasy Record Keeper and I am guessing if I did some digging I could probably make that work too.  On the Miitomo front…  I am not entirely certain I get it.  I mean it is a very cute presentation and it allows me to dress my Mii up however I want.  The only problem is I am not really seeing the point, other than earning nebulous rewards on the “My Nintendo” website like 15% off coupons.  Once you get past the window dressing, what the app ultimately ends up being is a super cumbersome chat program that lets you comment on your friends status updates.  If I could take items earned in this app and have it trickle down into the 3DS and Wii U then that would be really awesome, or if I could unlock extras for the games I am already playing…  then that would be really cool.  For the time being however it falls into the “nifty” bin but I am not sure how much myself or anyone else will really be using this once the new and cool factor wears off.

[Edit] – as of this morning I noticed there was a 1.1.2 update waiting on my phone.  I tried that and sure enough it seems to have fixed the crash.  I do have to admit this is a much better app for a phone than a tablet, so maybe I was overly harsh in my initial review.  I am not sure if this actually fixes things for rooted users, but it fixed my problems.

 

Super Good Advice

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I’ve been playing a silly amount of Iron Banner over the last few days, because I am finding that I really do enjoy PVP in Destiny.  This is just such an odd revelation for me given that I have purposefully shied away from fighting other players in any other game.  At least on some level it makes me wonder if I should dust off some of the other titles and give PVP a real chance to see if it sticks with me.  I remember enjoying playing Arena in World of Warcraft during Burning Crusade, but in large part we were doing our matches to get epics… to help our characters in raiding.  That is the most interesting thing for me is that I thought I was going into Iron Banner just for the loot, and while I have managed to get two of the chestpieces… that really doesn’t seem to be my core drive.  I actually like playing the maps, and while there are some that I absolutely hate… several of them are beginning to feel extremely comfortable.  The other thing that I find shocking is that I actually seem to be improving quite a bit.  There have been a few matches where I topped the score for the entire match, which is something I find completely bizarro.  I still consider myself a very shitty Destiny player.

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I think my ultimate goal for this weekend is to be able to get up high enough in the ranking to start to see the weapon drops.  I believe these start at rank 4 with the hand cannon, and rank 5 for the machine gun.  Both of them are weapons that I would probably actually use, but I am more excited about the Hand Cannon right now for some reason.  I miss using my Hand Cannon, and it feels like maybe this one would be a good legendary to run around with.  I need to honestly just dust off my Hawkmoon and give it a go again… but the big problem that I always run into is the fact that I never seem to have enough ammunition.  It is my huge hope that in the weapon re-balancing coming in the April patch that we see some love for the reserve ammunition size of the various Hand Cannon archetypes.  For now my weapon of choice in the Crucible is the Antipodal Hindsight that I now have up to 303.  There is just something about this weapon that I love, especially now that I have a roll on it with Rodeo.  Seriously… Rodeo on any weapon will take it from crappy to completely viable for me at least.  It is my hope that through today’s daily bounties I will hit rank 3 and get my first Iron Banner package.

 

Master of Orion Impressions

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Indulging a Whim

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Due to some strange glitch in my blog… I am apparently writing this blog post for the second time this morning.  Unfortunately I am probably not going to be able to go into nearly as much depth as I did previously…  because I am running out of time.  Last night I indulged a whim and gave the Wargaming.net reboot of Master of Orion a spin.  For years Master of Orion and Master of Orion II were those go to games when I wanted to spend an afternoon clicking the “next turn” button.  They sit firmly in the 4X genre, so when I want to Xplore, Xpand, Xploit or Xterminate… they serve as a great way to destroy an entire day.  I am not joking about that aspect because there are absolutely moments in the past where I have started playing Master of Orion II at around 1 pm… and then realized suddenly that it was apparently 1 am and I should really go to bed.  I love this franchise… but previously I had to put an asterisk at the end of that statement.  Master of Orion 3 was one of those games that I was looking forward to in 2003 more than pretty much anything else.  The problem being when I finally got my hands on it… it was largely indistinguishable as a Master of Orion game.  The aspects that existed… were buried beneath a horrible interface that made the game play itself a chore.

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So imagine my glee last night when I booted up the Wargaming.net reboot and found that pretty much every single aspect of the game was instantly familiar to me.  Those things that had changed were leaps of simple logic and not necessarily problems for me to figure out.  Traditionally when I play Master of Orion I have always played the Silicoids, a race of rock creatures that have the interesting trait of being able to colonize quite literally any planet that is not a gas giant.  This always allowed me to get an early lead on the total number of star systems… which would ultimately give me a lead in the ability to crank stuff out of my industrial complex.  While I see the Silicoids on the website, they are apparently not yet available in game.  So instead I went with the bugbear-like Bulrathi which started me with a significant military advantage…  one which I tried to keep the entire game by denying the other races the technological increases they kept asking to buy from me.

Familiar Patterns

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When I play one of these games I tend to play it in the same pattern, and it absolutely worked here once again.  I am an early expansionist, devoting most of my resources to generating colony ships and a skeletal fleet to protect them and defend planets.  While not as useful as the Silicoids, the Bulrathi do have the ability to colonize heavy gravity worlds… which allowed me to snap up a bunch of planets that the other races could not.  From there I focused on improving each of the planets and cranking out as many tech advances as I could.  There were many points in the game where the other races were one to three weapon grades behind me, which meant when the tables turned… and I shifted into my other game mode…  it was a blood bath.  Generally speaking when I play a 4X game I play extremely peacefully.  I stick to my own worlds and build up my engine…  and then whichever race makes the mistake of picking on one of my worlds…  I flip everything from producing infrastructure to producing war machines.  Last night it was the Psilons that had the poor decision making skills to pick a fight with me, at which point I sent a fleet of Carriers…  which ended up being my high powered Capital Ships to destroy them.  As soon as I could churn out new troop transports I was moving the fleet on to the next planet and conquering it.

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Towards the end of my march across their star systems, the Humans got in on the act of bombing their planets from orbit.  This is when I saw what might be the first significant glitch in the AI.  I had no formal alliance with the humans, and they simply decided to start attacking the Psilons on their own as well.  There was a period of time where I had to wait on a troop transport, and they easily could have landed their own and took over the world.  The problem is… they never did… they just continued to bomb the populace from air.  I am not sure if they simply lacked the technology to create troop transports… or if the AI was confused by having a contested planet.  Ultimately I landed my own troops, took over the planet and the humans left orbit considering the planet was now being guarded by one of my cruisers.  It was around this point when I realized that it was 11:30 pm and I really should be logging for the night.  Once again I had frittered away an evening playing this game, and enjoyed every moment of it.

But Early Access

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If you have ever loved Master of Orion in your past… then I highly suggest you check this game out.  It does a great job of washing the bad taste of MOO3 out of my mouth, and making me forget it actually exists.  I will go so far as to say that from this point on… the Wargaming.net reboot of Master of Orion is probably replacing MOO2 as my go to game for scratching that 4X itch.  It is an Early Access game, and I have no clue when it will be “finished”.  The game already looks extremely polished and I am guessing that most of the remaining development time is adding additional races to the available list, and multiplayer balancing.  I’ve only played single player at the moment, but I would absolutely try playing this multiplayer…  but I just have to find a time when me and several friends have entire afternoons to blow away as we furiously click that “next turn” button.  The only concerns I have is how Wargaming might try and monetize this later.  I could see them selling races, or selling various bits for the game…  but at this very moment it feels a very good single player gaming experience.  Time will tell but for the time being I am happy I picked it up.  As far as playing it on a regular basis… I will probably finish the game I started last night and see just how it ends up, and then neatly pack the game away until it launches.  This seems to be my current method for playing those early release titles…  test it out, kick the tires… and then leave it along until launch.

Of Chicken Horse

More Friends

After crashing extremely early last night, I ended up getting up fairly early.  From about 5 pm onwards I didn’t really get proper sleep, and mostly just laid there quietly until shortly after 6 pm.  The result was me getting to PAX and parked at around 8 am.  The parking situation was much improved, and that at least took one worry off of my mind.  By the time I got through the random bag fondling that they have been doing upon entering this year… Dallian was milling around in the Coffee Shop area.  So we sat there for a good while fiddling with street passes while waiting on others to show up.  I am not sure why I have been obsessing about street passes, but that has really felt like my overarching goal.  I guess part of it is the fact that I realize I will not have access to this many in one place… until I end up going to PAX next year.  So I spent pretty much any free time clearing out one batch of streetpasses and playing the picture puzzle and find mii game.  I am up to 392 Mii characters on my 3DS which is a significant boost to the 90 or so I had before coming this year.  Before coming this year I had completed zero of the slides… and after this year I have seven fully unlocked.

While hanging out there and chatting… and waiting on the rest of the folks to show up we had a random encounter with a couple of awesome folks.  The two of us were sitting at a table for four, and a couple came up and asked if we minded them joining us.  When you play board games there is a convention of playing with the box lid standing up, to signal you are open to letting other people join your game.  I wish there was something like that for tables, because I felt bad commandeering a table…. but I also wanted a nice place to sit while we waited.  What followed was an awesome conversation about Destiny and the Division, and a bunch of other console and PC games rolled together.  The funny thing is… we had this lengthy conversation all without introducing ourselves, and it took a fifth person joining the conversation to actually make that happen.  Now I hope to actually keep tabs on Hatti and Rabbit over twitter, and maybe even interact more between now and next year.

Everyone Must Play

As the day went on we managed to catch up with Tick, Damai, Thalen, Paragon, Ashgar, Rae and her brother John… and eventually Rowan, Sctrz, and Genda and his wife.  I believe when we were playing several rousing games of Code Names, we had ten around a table in the gaming area.  I believe the game was chosen in part because it scaled nicely regardless of how many people happened to be playing it.  While playing a rapidly snuck a few blurry pictures which I am totally using on my blog without talking to the individuals first.  However of the several photos I have… I picked the one with the people in it that I didn’t think would actually care.  I am also not naming anyone by name….  so hopefully no one gets cross with me.  Today was a lot of trying to sort out what to do, after we played a half dozen rounds we ended up breaking up into smaller groups and never quite joining back together.  I spent a lot of time circling like a shark trying to decide what to do… and alternately spending time with Exale and Maovis, who were cosplaying Venom Snake and Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China.  Lo Pan was an insane hit, and we ended up spending a lot of time stopping so folks could take photos.

I think the highlight of the day was dragging people to the Ultimate Chicken Horse booth just like I had done to me.  I cannot adequately elaborate on just how fun that game really is to play.  It takes a few rounds to get into it… but before long folks are cheering at the screen or groaning when they fail to complete a level.  There is something so deceptively simple about the game… and the iterative gameplay of each person adding a piece to the greater level keeps it fun and engaging.  I think the best feature is the fact that there is a fixed number of attempts that everyone can make, and regardless of the outcome someone will be crowned a winner.  I am already extremely partial to the chameleon who does this silly rainbow dance when you manage to win with him.  I also do not mind at all the Raccoon, and my lanyard now sports a button since they apparently ran out of Chameleons.  This is definitely going to be one of those games that I pick up immediately, and probably start buying for all of my friends so that they can join in the multiplayer madness.  I forsee us talking about this game a lot on the coming AggroChat.

Parking Debacle

Pax Day One

The first day of pax was interesting, mostly because it started off on a bad foot.  I wrote about yesterday how I failed to charge my cell phone over the course of the previous night.  The positive of that however is that I learned my power bank does a phenomenal job of charging phones, and by the time it took me to drive from the hotel to the convention center it was sitting around 63% from the previous 15%.  Last year there was a plethora of parking options up and down Commerce and Market streets, but unfortunately yesterday every single lot had a full sign.  I finally ended up parking in a surface lot, having to pay $20 for 8 hours.  On the way to the convention I stopped and chatted with one of the attendants at the garage I parked in last year, just to find out what time of the day it actually filled up.  Turns out that some other corporate event is going on downtown, and that a company had booked pretty much all of the city run garages, greatly reducing the amount of available parking space.  She said that today they would be open again, so here is hoping that I can get into the garage I am used to.

As far as the day itself, it took a little while to connect with everyone.  I met up with Dallian in this coffee shop area near a giant Pax South sign, where we milled around until we joined up with Paragon and Damai… and eventually Ashgar.  Since we had not heard anything from Thalen yet, we wandered into the con and around the floor.  All the while I was on lookout for trying to sort out where exactly my first appointment was.  Turns out it was downstairs at the river level…. which is not something I even knew existed.  The rooms down there were super nice however, and in truth I liked them better than the area the Motiga suite was last year.  When I went to scope the place out I got nabbed by Deanna from Perfect World, and ushered into their room to hang out while waiting on time for my appointment.  They had this really great spread of brownies and other pastries, but unfortunately… I had just eaten a large breakfast at the hotel thinking it might be awhile before I found food on the con floor.

Livelock

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I will of course be writing a proper piece for MMOGames.com once I have more stable internet, but I still wanted to talk a little bit about it this morning.  I have to admit I was not really sure what to expect from all of the press announcements leading up to me actually getting to test it.  I had a basic idea that it would be a top down shooter, but I was not really certain past that.  I turns out that the game as a whole is a love letter to the twin stick shooters of the past, updated and infused with modern gameplay mechanics.  So in my head it feels like Ikari Warriors meets Diablo meets some almost MMO mechanics.  When the game is finished it will include three mechs that have specific niches, and in the discussion they mentioned tank/healer/dps holy trinity.  It seems as you level up your character to 30 you unlock ways to swap up your abilities and make them more defensive or more damaging.  I asked the ever important question about how big of a detriment a new player will be to seasoned players… and apparently the game is more skill based.  Level 1 characters and Level 30 characters have the same health, and the upgrades to abilities don’t really crank up the damage value, but instead change the way they work.  So in theory this might be a great game for impromptu co-op with friends.  That has always been the challenge in our own little circle, that if someone was not there on the first night… it is often difficult to play catch up and be viable until everyone simply hits the level cap.  The other nice thing about this game is that it is a straight up $19.99 game, and I grilled them a bit about future monetization plans.  It seems like right now they have no plans to offer a whole bunch of DLC characters or anything like that… they are just trying to design a really tight three player co-op experience and that is in many ways refreshing.

Ultimate Chicken Horse

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The other game I really want to talk about from yesterday is Ultimate Chicken Horse.  Now this is a title we have talked about before on AggroChat on our PAX Prime Show.  While Tam, Kodra, and Ashgar tried to explain the game to me… I didn’t really “grok” it until I was sitting there yesterday with a controller in hand playing it myself.   The idea is pretty simple…  you have a platformer that you compete with up to four other players.  The level designs are pretty classic and relatively simple to complete.  What makes the game amazing is that each round, each player gets a block that they can place somewhere in the level.  Some of these blocks help the players out like springboards or platforms…. and others will kill the player like crossbows that fire arrows, or spiked floors.  The goal of the game is the make the level difficult enough for at least one of the people you are playing with to die…. but not so hard that you cannot beat it yourself.  If everyone beats the level… no points are awarded.  If no one beats the level…  no points are awarded.  Things start to get really insane about five rounds in when the map becomes a field of death and destruction.  I can already tell this is going to be one of those must own “go to” games for hanging out with friends.  The best part about it is the fact that it does couch co-op and does it amazingly well.  The only problem I am going to have is that I am not sure if it supports network co-op, and I simply don’t have a group of people to play it with on a regular basis in local mode.  I am absolutely going to buy the game regardless because I want to support this flavor of insanity.  If you get a  chance, you should totally check it out when it ends up on steam shortly.

Ending the Day

The big problem with the day yesterday, was the fact that I was super paranoid the entire time about the crappy parking option I had.  Previously the $10 lots were for as long as you cared to stay, meaning I could be there late at night without much issue.  I talked to the parking attendant about the lot I happened to be in, and she mentioned that it was a privately owned lot and they were super quick to boot cars.  So the entire time while roaming around Pax I kept looking at my phone to check when it was time to walk out and get the car and try and move it to someplace better.  I finally headed out around 3:30 in the afternoon to do that, and in the time it took me to exit that surface lot… someone had already taken my space.  I drove around Commerce and Market streets and all of those lots still showed the “Full” sign, so I circled back around to the lot I had parked in… which now had a barricade across its entrance as well.  So everyone went off to Dave and Busters, and I instead went to the Hotel and played 3DS until my wife and friend got in a few minutes later.  Once the traffic had died down we went out roaming for a bit, because we needed some pop to throw in the hotel fridge.  The day took a lot more out of me than I realized, and I ended up crashing really hard about 9 pm.  Over the course of the day I walked a little over 15,000 steps, which is something I am just not used to right now.  It was fine and well while I was in motion, but once I got back to the hotel room… it took its toll.  Overall was a really good first day, other than the parking bullshit.  Next year I am going to sort out the bus system and just use it, because in theory there is a bus that picks up right outside this hotel and drops off near the convention center.

 

Cats and Wolves

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Cattes a Plenty

NekoAtsumeAt some point last year, lots of folks in my feed showed up with this Japanese app on their phones called Neko Atsume.  From what I can tell it roughly translates to Cat Collector, and it is one of those passive things that I tend to refer as a “maintenance game”.  The thing is….  I like cats.  In fact as I write this post I have one on either end of my desk sleeping on their blankets.  I for the most part avoided the game until recently when for some strange reason I decided to give it an install.  Firstly I’ve talked about my problems with mobile gaming in general.  I tend to install a game, play it a few times… and then never touch it again.  Largely my life is not exactly mobile friendly, and if I have access to games….  I am generally at home when I can use a more traditional gaming system.  This game however…  fits that realm of do something…  leave it sit for awhile… check back in on progress for a minute or two.  I’ve found myself popping it open while waiting on a meeting to start, and the jolt of happy kittehs doing stuff seems to help my mental state.

The concept is really simple.  You purchase cat toys, place them in your virtual yard… and the neighborhood cats will come visit you and leave you gifts if they enjoyed themselves.  The gifts come in the form of silver or gold fish… with the later also serving as the cash shop currency of the game.  As far as advancement… I have zero clue how that works.  I know I have seen screenshots of folks with much bigger yards, but I have no idea how that actually occurs yet.  The starter yard has a fixed number of mount points for items, and at any point you can pick the items up and replace them with other items from your inventory.  I have a pretty simple yard right now, but it seems to draw cats in pretty well.  You can play the game completely free and there is a conversion between silver fish and gold fish… but it is pretty painful.  You can get 10 Gold fish for every 250 Silver fish, which is doable because over the course of a few days I have earned over 250.  Right now it gives me tiny doses of happy especially when I pop over and my yard is completely full of cats doing adorable things.  I fully expect that within two weeks time I will have abandoned this mobile game just like I have abandoned so many others.

Slowly Leveling

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The other big project I have had over the last several days is working my way through the content in Destiny on my Xbox 360.  This has been a somewhat crazy side mission, and I have to say…  it has been interesting leveling from scratch for a second time.  There were a lot of things I struggled with in Destiny playing through it that very first time, and for the most part none of them are big deals this time.   I guess all of the time I have played on the Playstation 4 really has made me significantly better at the game, because swapping consoles has been a non-issue.  Sure the 360 controller feels a little strange, but I seem to be able to switch hit between it and the dualshock without much problem.  Admittedly I find the dualshock 4 significantly more comfortable, and if there was a way to make it work on the 360 I totally would.  I guess you might ask yourself why exactly am I leveling on a last generation console…  well I still have friends playing it.  I have been really damned impressed at just how well the game plays.  I mean admittedly it feels like someone smeared vasoline on the screen because everything feels a little fuzzy… given the lower resolution and with it lower texture detail.  However the moment to moment game play is exactly the same… and the weapons and movement all feels just as responsive.  I am sure at some point I will pick up an Xbox One, and at that point…  in theory my 360 characters get to transfer over so any work I am doing now I can carry forward into the next system.

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There are so many lessons that I have learned from playing through the first time.  This time around for example I am stockpiling every single blue engram drop that I happen to get.  The idea is that if I can wait to open any of them until level 40, I will be able to push up my light level quickly and get to a viable position to start doing content.  I am investing a lot of time right now in this platform, but the hope is that eventually it will be the sort of thing I only play when I have people to play with.  I still greatly prefer the Playstation 4 version, and those are the characters that I really care about.  In theory I could have spent my level 25 boost on my Titan and probably would have been done by now, but there is something fun about doing this legitimately again.  At this point I have beaten the main storyline of the original game, and darkness below.  I am also a fairly significant way through the House of Wolves storyline, but it was getting late last night and I did not really want to deal with the Vault of Glass mission, so that is where I will pick up next time I play.  I’ve reached level 25, which concerns me a bit… given that I have quite a bit to go before I can function very efficiently in the Taken King content.  I mean in theory I could already be doing that… but sub 35 some of those later missions are a pain in the ass.  Generally speaking on Destiny alts I push all the way to 40 before even really starting Taken King, so that I can burn through it easily.  Given I need leveling fuel… I will more than likely start Taken King as soon as I finish up with House of Wolves.  I guess I could do some Strike grinding, but I really really hate the Omnighoul strike, and that seems to be all I ever get in the level 20 range.

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.

 

Week In Gaming 8/30/2015

Diablo III 2015-08-29 21-48-57-149

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

FalloutShelter_ScreenShot

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]

FFXIV for PS3 Closeout

AggroChat #49 – Road Trip Fantasies Type-0

During this show we are joined by our normal cast of Belghast, Rae, Tam, Kodra and Ashgar as we devote the majority of the show to lots of different things Final Fantasy.  We talk the release of the Final Fantasy XV Demo and how this has sent Tam back into the 90s.  We talk Final Fantasy Type-0 and how we are enjoying this very different Final Fantasy Offering.  We also talk about how the Final Fantasy franchise going to more “on rails” games turned several of us off the franchise for awhile.  Ashgar beats Ori and the Blind Forest and talks a bit about his feelings regarding the ending.  Tam talks about his enjoyment of Dreamfall Chapters and how it isn’t really required that one has played the previous games.  Rae talks about her new Noms website, where they plan on making a recipe a week and reflecting on what the various authors think of it.

I talk about my current funk with my World of Warcraft raid and how the frustrations there are harshing my enjoyment.  We also delve into a deep session once again where we talk about the differences bertween WoW and FFXIV raiding.  We also have a session of “Tam Told us So” now that the news about crafting specialization has taken some of the focus away from us all becoming Omni Crafters.  I talk about my return lately to Elder Scrolls Online and the conversion to a Buy To Play system.  I talk about a game I did not expect to like but find myself begrudgingly enjoying, and that is ZMR:  Zombies Monsters Robots.  Finally we close out the show with some discussion about the League Championship Series and the introduction of the new roaming support champion… Bard.

FFXIV For PS3 Closeout

FinalFantasyARRXIVPS3Yesterday we spent the day mostly roaming around, in an effort to get out of the house more than anything. Tis the season for post Christmas clearance in all the various stores as they start closing out one seasons stuff in preparation for summer.  This is generally an awesome time to pick up all sorts of random bits, but more often than not I am hunting for Legos.  I’ve already found several sets deeply discounted and I have reached the point where I really don’t pounce on something until it is at least half off or more from the original price.  In my journeys yesterday I noticed that it seems like all of the Target stores are closing out their PS3 copies of Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn.  This creates a unique opportunity for players who have been on the fence about playing the Game.  Throughout my journeys yesterday I found it between $6 and $10 for a boxed copy of FFXIV  PS3.  Now if you act very quickly you can turn this PS3 copy into a PS4 copy with several caveats.

Firstly this offer goes away on March 31st, so you will have a limited amount to time to actually do it.  Secondly you have to have a PS3 or access to a PS3 to make this work.  You have to log your PSN account into a PS3 and bind that PS3 to your account.  Then you have to  boot up FFXIV and log into the game, thereby registering your PSN account to your Square Enix account.  Finally you have to go into the Mogstation and you can click the link that should now appear at the bottom of your account screen.  This should give you a code that you can then enter through the Sony Playstation store on your PS4 to get a copy of Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn of PS4.  This is a ton of hoops to jump through but it should allow you to get a copy of FFXIV ARR for really cheap.  There are some caveats here… firstly when you claim your PS4 copy, it nullifies your PS3 copy.  Secondly this does not give your account a PC License, which would be a separate  purchase.  I did this some time ago myself but I had forgotten all of this bullshit that you have to do until yesterday when a friend was trying to make this work.  I normally play on my PC but I like having the option to play on PS4 especially since you can remote play through a Vita or PSTV.  Granted the controls are kinda wonky, but it would be well worth figuring it out for leveling and crafting as such.

City Building

Cities 2015-03-21 11-45-41-43 Another game that I have been playing around with lately is the confusingly named Cities: Skylines.  It seems like I was suffering the same confusion that so many other gamers seem to be… that Skylines was somehow connected to the Cities XL and Cities XXL franchise.  That colon apparently is there to somehow differentiate the games, because they are in fact from two different companies.  I had played XL in the past and was not terribly impressed, so when I say the buzz about Skylines I for the most part ignored it.  That was until I actually watched some game play footage and saw that the game was essentially everything I wanted the last couple of Simcity titles to be.  Overall the game feels very much like a logical successor to Simcity 2000, which was really the last big city building game that I enjoyed playing.  If you take the concepts from that game, and bring them up to modern standards you have the Skylines interface.  The game strikes this balance between trying to have mind bending graphics and being pleasant to look at and play with.

I took this screenshot because I am pretty damned proud of getting my first upgrade.  Apparently in the years since I have played Simcity 2000, I have gotten pretty horrible at city building.  The biggest problem I am having with skylines is that it seems difficult to figure out how best to build the roads and utilities to conserve space for zoning.  The above city is actually my second attempt at creating something viable, and so far it is working okay.  My first city was a complete mess because I didn’t really know what I was doing.  I have a feeling that this second city will also be a learning experience as I try and figure out how best to optimize putting in an electrical grid and such.  All I do know for certain is that skylines is definitely a way to lose an hour without realizing it.  I started playing this as my wife was getting ready to leave yesterday morning, and next thing I know she was ready.  I feel like I need to watch some people playing it to figure out how best to do things again.  The standard grid that I used to build in doesn’t appear to really work here.  If nothing else this feels like the true “next best city building game.

Rostygold and Primordial Shrieks

Bel Folks Stuff

belfolksstuff_512 For a few weeks I have been kicking around a concept, and I’ve finally decided to start moving towards the goal of making it happen.  The concept is pretty simple, that I have a conversation one on one with a personality in our community or in the gaming industry.  Instead of bringing them on to promote something, or actually talk about their gaming…  I want to delve into the person behind the screen, what makes them tick and what they are passionate about.  I decided to give the show a quirky name “Bel Folks Stuff” which as you can see from the logo is short hand for “Bel Talks to Interesting Folks About Really Important Stuff That They Enjoy Doing”.  Because pretty much that sums it up in a nutshell.  I personally find a lot of the people in our community super interesting and I have a sneaking suspicion that listeners would as well.

Now as far as the details of when I would record, how often I would record, what kind of turn around I am expecting… all of that is up in the air.  This is the sort of thing that I would consider a “bonus” podcast rather than a serious scheduled one.  There might be times that I schedule a recording and we realize there just wasn’t much to talk about.  Other times I might record way more audio than I could ever cram into a podcast and have to release multiple parts.  I am keeping all of this pretty flexible.  Think of this as more of a “boutique” project than say AggroChat where we keep a weekly schedule.  I am pretty pumped about the prospects, and the closest thing I can really compare it to is Actor’s Studio with James Lipton.  I still need to firm up some of the things I plan to ask, but the idea is to keep it flexible and go wherever the conversation happens to go.  I am also purposefully not making this specifically a “gaming” podcast.  If folks want to talk about their passion for gardening… we are going to talk about their passion for gardening.  The people behind the screens that we play interesting me more than what happens on the monitor.

Syrcus Grind Starts

ffxiv 2014-10-07 17-43-10-100 For years I have been enamored with the concept of a “reset day”.  So many MMOs have various gates that block you from completing too much content in a single week, as such once a week all of these gates unlock again and you can enter them to get awesome baubles.  If I am being absolutely honestly with myself, I do not raid for the challenge… I raid for the spiffy things that I can obtain through it.  Over the last several weeks I have been fastidiously gearing my Warrior job in Final Fantasy XIV through running Syrcus Tower and careful application of Tomestones of Soldiery.  Over the course of these last few weeks I have managed to take my average item level up to 98 which is nothing to sneeze at.  Quite honestly most of this has been sheer dumb luck.  I’ve entered Syrcus each week and during the course of the first or second attempt at the run a piece of gear has dropped that was an upgrade and I won it.  Now however I am down to just two pieces of gear that I can obtain from there… apart from the Sands and Oil of Time which I will focus on eventually.

Over the course of the night last night I ran Syrcus a grand total of four times, and in none of those times did I manage to see either the Helmet or the Legs drop.  I feel like I have managed to pick up the easy pieces, and now that I only need two… both of which drop from the same boss I am going to have a much slower time to go.  I will probably limit myself to a single running of Syrcus a night to keep from making it absolute misery.  If by the end of the week I haven’t gotten either the helm or the legs I guess I will go after either an oil or sands with the hope of upgrading one of my existing soldiery slots to 110.  I posted the picture above because there is a rule in FFXIV that I have noticed…  if more than one Lalafell is standing in an area for too terribly long… dancing will happen.  This is a bunch of us waiting on the last person to realize they had not yet rolled on the Onion Knight cosmetic pet.  Of course I didn’t win it, but by god I am not leaving the instance until I at least see that my chance at it is over.

Rostygold and Primordial Shrieks

Several weeks into the game and I still find myself hopelessly enamored with Fallen London.  I guess I have Tarantella to thank for this… and in turn my circle of friends has me to thank for their present addiction as well.  I guess what surprises me the most about this game is just how deep the rabbit hole gets.  In various areas of the game there are “Ambition” storylets, and for the uninitiated a storylet is the equivalent of a quest in other games.  You might do something in an unrelated series of a events, which sets a flag that now opens up a bunch of stories that cascade off of it.  The ambition quests tend to be the most intricate and detailed and also time consuming.  While playing Fallen London there are many positive statuses you can earn, but additionally many negative ones as well.  Each of the negative statuses has some consequence associated with it.  For example if you allow your nightmares to reach 8, you quite literally go insane and can take no actions other than ones attempting to reclaim your mental faculties.

Yesterday I got an Ambition that involved me purposefully getting thrown into Newgate Prison to track an enemy of yours that is residing there.  In order to accomplish this I had to raise my suspicion to 8, triggering a sequence of events that ended with being unceremoniously thrown into prison.  From there I could go after my mark directly, but the problem is… once that was completed I still was sitting in prison.  At this point I was forced to take actions in an attempt to lower my suspicion back to zero again.  These actions involved calling in favors that I had earned in the rest of Fallen London, blatant bribe attempts, or doing actions that show “good behavior”.  The problem is while the ability that got me into prison swapped 1 action for 1 suspicion… digging my way out of the hole took a considerably amount of time.

That seems to be the “negative” consequences in this game, are that you can get yourself into a situation where you have to spend copious turns correcting the mistake you made in the first place.  I am still slowly working my way into the confidence of the devils.  I had reached a point where I was getting dangerously close to losing my soul in game, and I took actions to delay that… which cost me a ton of faction in the process.  As such I have been slowly building back up to that point, because really I think it might be interesting to see what the game is like if you have gone through the “abstraction”.

The problem with courting the devils is that you end up constantly teetering dangerously close to the fail condition on both Nightmares and Scandal.  As such I am constantly in search of creative ways to lower both of these negative statuses.  In any case I am still digging the game, and enjoying the setting.  I really need to spend more time digging into Sunless Sea, but I keep hearing there is a major patch in the works that will fix a good number of the problems with the game, and as such I am mostly holding back.  If you have not played this game and enjoy roleplaying games with quirky settings… I highly suggest you check it out.  If you do add me as a contact, so that we can be “delicious friends” to borrow the verbiage of the game.

#FFXIV #FallenLondon

Fallen London

AggroChat Episode 23

Last night once again we gathered myself, Rae, Ashgar, Kodra and Tam and recorded yet another action filled episode of Aggrochat.  I would love to think it was action filled, but more likely than not it was just a lot of rambling about about various things.  I titled this weeks broadcast “An Intimate of Devils” because one of the games we talked about is the web based Fallen London.  Several of us are playing it but really only myself and Kodra have spent a good amount of time doing so.  Somehow we both managed to align ourselves with the Brass Embassy which is the home of the demonic residents of Fallen London… the Devils.  It turns out that apparently the plural of devil is an “intimate of devils” so I thought it was an interesting if not fitting title for the show.  If you have not caught on I try and name the shows something that might cause someone to click through on it.

Other than that we talked at length about the Microsoft acquisition of Minecraft, and what its possible ramifications could be.  We talked a little bit about Final Fantasy XIV and especially about Rae’s journey to become an Omnicrafter and get to 50 on all of her professions.  We spent a large chunk of time talking about Destiny and our experiences playing the game… and trying in vain to find the story.  Currently the Tokyo Game Show is going on, so we talked a bit about the games that were being shown there especially Final Fantasy XV or “Final Fantasy Roadtrip” as we have taken to calling it.  Finally we discussed for a bit what all was happening at the League of Legends World Championship.  We ran a bit longer than normal clocking in at an hour and ten minutes, but hopefully you enjoy what all we had to say about a large number of topics.

Fallen London

lodgings A few weeks back my good friend Tarantella convinced me to give a web based game called Fallen London a shot, and since then I have been playing it quite a bit, often times feverishly burning through my turns multiple times a day.  I liked it so much that I decided to become an “Exceptional Friend” which is their equivalent of a patron system giving you a second “candle” worth of turns.  That is the rather nice way of them displaying how many turns you have left.  You start off with a rather large candle and as you take turns it slowly burns down to just the stub.  If you have played the early web based RPG Kingdom of Loathing, the gameplay will be very familiar.  You are allotted a fixed number of turns, and then periodically you gain a new turn.  The turns regenerate at a rate of 1 per every 10 minutes, so generally speaking each morning you will start with a fresh candle of 40, or in my case two candles of 40 since I am a patron… and then you play through those and start accruing them back until you are at the maximum number of turns again.

one of the things that makes this more interesting than say Kingdom of Loathing is the fact that you get what are essentially “chance” cards that you can play.  These also regenerate at a rate of 1 level 10 minutes until you have 6 in reserve.  The size of your current hand is determined by the quality of your lodgings.  You start with only one card in your hand, and then as you upgrade your lodgings this increases.  Right now my lodgings is a decommissioned steamer and it allows me certain types of cards to show up as well as increasing my hand size to three.  These cards tend to give you far better rewards than wandering around the various districts of Fallen London.  I say wandering, but there is no action combat in this game.  Everything is carried out by making a series of text based decisions, and the game has a Everquest style color coding system to show how difficult the encounter is.  If you mouse over an option it will tell you specifically what the chance of success is.  There are various items that can be spent to give yourself additional chances at completing the task.

It’s About the Setting

houseofchimes The aspect of Fallen London that makes it appealing to me is that you have this London by Gaslight era setting infused with all sorts of Cthulhu elements as well as a fair bit of steampunk.  The background of the game is that London is the 5th great city to fall, and in this case it means to be consumed completely by the earth.  In the early bits of the game I found it unclear if this was literally a fissure in the earth or if the city was somehow transported into another dimension.  In either case it finds itself surrounded by a great subterranean ocean known as the “Unterzee”.  Additionally the city has found itself host to several supernatural entities that find it as a handy stopping off place between their own realms and that of the above world.  So the game is a game of factions and secret societies… and you as the player have to tiptoe your way through them figuring out exactly who you choose to align with.

Personally I have found myself fond of the “Rubbery Men” which are essentially Cthulhu style deep ones in suits that wander around the city trading for mysteriously throbbing stones.  Additional over the course of my exploits I’ve found myself getting closer and closer to the Brass Embassy as I mentioned above, the cloister of devils that visits our fair city between trips above to take the souls of men.  The artwork overall for the game is extremely simplistic, but at the same time evocative of a dark and mysterious world that it is trying to induct you into.  The game is not terribly action packed in that you essentially are doing a lot of text adventure, but nonetheless I find it compelling.  It is like a self driven pen and paper role-playing game.  I’ve made more than a few false steps as I have tried to figure out my way around the world… not the least of which was somehow pissing off the patron that had gifted me some really nice things.

An Evolution

2014-09-21_00007 One of the problems with Fallen London is that the way it is set up is designed to ration you out a few turns at a time.  Additionally you are essentially “landlocked” inside of London.  There are missions that open up storylets in different areas, but all of which are roughly connected to Fallen London proper.  The folks at Failbetter Games have created Sunless Sea that is now available on Steam Early access to address this problem.  This time instead of taking the role of a prisoner being released into Fallen London, you are taking the role of a Steamship captain giving you mobility outside of town.  You and your fearless crew embark upon missions outside of the city and engage in battle against pirates and sea monsters while trying to gain the favor of the factions within the city.  I’ve not played a ton of hours yet, but I am nonetheless intrigued.

2014-09-21_00001 The game does not really hold your hand, and in a way it reminds me quite a bit of FTL in that you can screw up spectacularly and wind up dead within a few turns.  While wandering around the “Zee” you have to watch several things… the hunger of your crew, the fuel of your vessel and your hull integrity.  As you wander about the in your vessel, you will encounter new areas and if there is a dock jutting out in to the water you can explore on shore.  So far I have found a few new areas, each with storylets that will likely come into play later as I get further into the game play.  The overall interface of the game is very familiar if you have played the web based Fallen London.  The primary difference is you have to learn what a whole new set of stats means, in that they do not use any of the same baseline abilities as the web version has.

Doing Battle

2014-09-19_00003 Eventually you are going to encounter something that wants to take a chunk out of your hull.  Combat itself is turn based and strategic in nature.  In order to perform most of your attacks you need to illuminate your target to be able to aim properly.  As such the opening salvos of combat tend to be you throwing flares out into the water to light it up properly.  There is the option to do a wild salvo, but the chance of hitting the target and dealing serious damage is pretty low.  As such I tend to throw out 3 flares first so that I can hit the target with a full force attack.  On small targets like this abyssal crab it generally only takes a single hit.  When you start encountering pirates however you will have to a bit more tricky.  I’ve noticed that the pirates prefer to open with wild salvos which generally do little damage but can stress you out as you are trying to light up the target.

2014-09-21_00002

When you defeat an enemy you are given a series of options based on how far you have progressed as a character.  In the case of the Crab, you are given the option to harvest it for supplies or dissect it to learn knowledge.  More often than not I take the supplies as this is quite literally how you feed your crew, and anything that keeps me from having to spend Echo to buy supplies makes me happy.  When I took out a pirate ship I was given the interesting option of sending it to shore with a skeleton crew and getting more resources from the ship.  I ended up getting quite a haul of Echo from doing this, but it greatly reduces the number of available crew members when you do it.  I am sure that has an opportunity cost later on as a result, but I have not quite run into a situation where the number of crew members mattered.

Tomb Colonists

2014-09-21_00005 Right now in my game I am spending most of my time running Tomb Colonists to Venderbight.  The Tomb Colonists are one of the stranger factions of Fallen London.  They are in essence mummies that travel around in coffins.  So basically as I am doing this, I am hauling three coffins at a time and getting a pretty decent payout when I get to Venderbight and sell them back to the Tomb-Colonists there.  It isn’t exactly glamorous but it is worth quite a large amount of echo… something I am sorely lacking.  I need to do some research to see what it takes to get a more efficient engine because right now it seems like I am burning through a good deal of my profit in simply buying up fuel… which greatly limits my range of movement.  I figure in coming sessions I will explore more of the coast line and see what trouble I can get into.  Unfortunately however I don’t really know how to gauge how rough an encounter is… so I feel like at some point I am just going to die horribly to something too strong for me to take.2014-09-21_00004 Right now I am very much digging the narrative of both games and the setting.  I only wish there was a way to have the two games be connected, in that I was either playing the same character or somehow being a benefactor one way or another.  I did notice I was able to log in with my Fallen London account, but I did that right before starting this post… so I have yet to see just how connected they end up being.  Long story short, I highly suggest you check out Fallen London since it is completely free to play.  If you like the setting and find the various factions as compelling as I do, then I suggest you also check out Sunless Sea.  I am looking forward to exploring more of the “Unterzee” as a Steamship “Zailor”.  Right now Sunless Sea is under $20 for steam early access, and I feel like that is an absolute steam considering just how much interesting content I have already seen.  The one thing still on my wishlist is for a proper mobile client for my phone, then I would be raving wildly about how awesome of an experience this is.

#AggroChat #FallenLondon #SunlessSea