Listless Gaming

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Last night was a fairly fraught evening with me needing to spend more time than I would have liked dealing with work stuff.  By the time I shifted over into gaming mode I was struggling to find the fun in almost anything that I played.  Initially I attempted to get into Dishonored Death of the Outsider and managed to make a tiny bit of progress…  but in the end just wound up taking screenshots of the weird shit appearing in the game like this…  that I can only term as some sort of a monkey baron?  For whatever reason this game is struggling to hold my attention in quite the way that Dishonored 1 and 2 did and I am not entirely certain why.  It could simply be that I am still not the biggest fan of Karnaca and greatly prefer the vibe of Dunwall.

Whatever the case I made it to about the halfway point of a mission before needing to shut down because my wife needed assistance with something.  When I returned to my laptop I did not return to the game and moved on to rummage around for something else to do.  Evenings like last night are frustrating because it feels like I squandered the opportunity to have a good time.  There are times where my mind is just not in the right place to really enjoy anything so I sorta flail about until eventually giving up for the evening and going to sleep.  I wish there was a button that allowed me to purge my mind of worries and just be present in the activity I happen to be doing…  and before someone suggests it… meditation doesn’t seem to work for me.  I just end up sitting quietly thinking about the same nonsense I was thinking about before I actively tried not to think about it.

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So what did I do instead of playing something I had not experienced…  I started a brand new game of Fallout 4.  In theory I need to get Nexus Mod Manager set up on my upstairs machine and get all of the mods I like to use there.  This whole remote playing everything is interesting because there were a lot of experiences like Fallout that I managed to make work downstairs…  albeit in a way less pretty fashion.  I have to say I could really get used to this whole being able to play games in full resolution and fidelity…  from the machine that is most comfortable at that very moment.  I need to drag my spare laptop to work and see how well this process works over the guest network there because in theory…  it should be accessible from any online connection.  I could even try tethering my phone and seeing how playable everything is over a 4G LTE connection.

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I sorta always create the same basic character in Fallout 4…  which is essentially a version of the same character I create in any game.  Little details change but the rough outline of the “Belghast” archetype remains the same.  Incoming spoiler alert for anyone who might not have played the game.  I don’t even mess with customizing the spouse anymore, because I know a few minutes into the experience she will be long gone.  I so rarely play female characters in games because they don’t really fit with the whole unified character thing that I tend to do.

I am not rejecting them because they are female…  more that I am rejecting them because they don’t fit the character I keep wanting to play over and over in every single game.  I do fine in titles that have a strong female character that you assume the reigns of…  like Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn or Lara Croft in the new Tomb Raider games.  However when you give me a game like the Mass Effect series that allows me to craft a tailor made character…  I will almost every single time create a “Belghast”.  I also have a lot of issue with the game if it impedes me from crafting this character…  which I experience a lot when playing games without beard options or “pretty boy” features.  Basically I am not really a fan of the whole Bishōnen thing.  Belghast is a battle damaged character and as a result I prefer whatever form that representation takes looks that way…  though I do worry that at times I am essentially creating a Marlboro Man.

My Bloody Corvo

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This weekend was largely all about the Dishonored franchise for me and making some serious progress through large chunks of it.  I wrote a bit about Dishonored 2 and Parsec the other day, but to recap…  Parsec is this really cool streaming client that allows you to play games with exceedingly low latency from another machine.  When combined with the fact that I have traditionally done most of my single player gaming on my downstairs laptop…  this ends up being a revolutionary change for me personally.  Dishonored 2 was the first game to release that my GTX 960M graphics card and 4th gen i7 processor could not handle.  I could not under any circumstances get the game to run at something I would consider “playable” and as a result I just didn’t play the game.  A little less than 2 years alter…  with me stumbling onto Parsec…  it was absolutely the first game I attempted because I hated that I never got around to playing it.

The reason being that I love the Dishonored setting…  and in truth it is probably as close to my ideal game universe as I could possibly assemble.  It has steam punk machinations, crazy tentacled whales, a cruel god that bestows dark gifts, and the ability to rack up an insanely high body count.  I love the lore and mythology of the world and the fact that it hints at things… and often times doesn’t tell us all the details.  There is a point in one of the games where it mentions there are currently eight individuals with the outsiders mark…  but then never fills in the details of who those eight are.  Even after consulting the Wiki…  there are a bunch of options but nowhere near enough to make up that entire gathering.  So just knowing that somewhere out there is another super powered being that you have not encountered makes every discussion you get into… feel a little more suspicious.  In my mind there is a universe where Dishonored and Bioshock could co-exist…  and unfortunately while they don’t link up neatly I would love to see some larger setting that connects the dots between the two.

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I remember when I first started playing Dishonored 2 I was not super keen on its design ethic.  Gone were the mist shrouded gloomy streets of Dunwall…  which were replaced by the sun bathed all too real deprivations of Karnaca.  I found it so much harder to skulk about and take out my targets from the shadows and was ultimately forced to change my play style in a way that used a lot more distraction than I was used to in the original game.  I also found the story largely incomprehensible because I had fallen for one of the great flaws of the Dishonored series.  Arkane studios expects that when you play one of their games…  that you have played every other piece of content in that series.  For whatever reason I never actually played the Knife of Dunwall or Brigmore Witches DLC, I think in part because I didn’t want to really play as Daud…  someone I looked at as the bad guy of the first game.  The truth is Dishonored is a setting where everything is nuanced.  Daud was no more bad guy than Corvo was a good guy…  they were just pawns in a larger tapestry being set in motion by the Outsiders uncanny knack for bestowing his mark upon deeply flawed and broken people.

The problem with not playing these two DLC episodes however is that the events leading up to the start of Dishonored 2 took me completely off guard and I was introduced to a character I knew nothing about… or in truth a pair of characters…  Megan Foster and Delilah Copperspoon.  So while I found the entire experience of Dishonored 2 enjoyable…  it felt way less engaging than the first one did.  The other problem I have with Dishonored…  is I am a high body count sort of person and the games love making me pay for my actions.  Effectively you can play the games in High Chaos or Low Chaos modes…  and your actions cause massive ripple effects on the ultimately ending of the game.  That means there is traditionally a good ending and a bad ending…  and if I am left to my own devices…  I always get the bad endings.  I tend to see anyone who stands in the way of my goal as someone I need to slice my way through…  and as a result I end up building a world bathed in blood that produces a rather disappointing ending.

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Knowing that I would ultimately want to play through Dishonored 2 again in as low a chaos manner as possible to see the other ending…  I decided to go ahead and play those two DLCs that I had skipped.  Now immediately after playing Dishonored 2 I would have said that I enjoyed it greatly but that it is was nowhere near as good as the original game.  The DLCs are that difference because after having completed both of them this weekend…  it immediately turns my opinion of the second game on its head because the entire experience becomes as deeply nuanced as the first one felt.  Essentially Knife of Dunwall and Brigmore Witches are a prequel to the events that happen at the beginning of Dishonored 2 and without knowing any of that lore… it feels really bad.  Afterwards however…  the end result feels glorious and triumphant as the pieces click into place and you can see this entire story happening behind the scenes that you as Corvo knew nothing about.

It also humanizes the character of Daud…  who was not a good man but also not anywhere near as evil as he seemed to be at face value.  He was a man who spent his last hours trying to repair the damage he had set in motion.  The high chaos ending of Dishonored 2 shows you that Corvo is just as flawed a human being as Daud was, and that ultimately each of these people bestowed the dark gift…  are on a bit of a course towards self destruction.  I am trying not to be super spoilery about the events of these games…  in case someone reading this has not played them.  Much like the Mass Effect series… I feel like Dishonored, the DLC and its sequel are must play games.  These days you can pick them all up for pretty cheap and I highly suggest you spend a couple of excellent weekends doing the single player thing wrapped up in that world.

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At this point however I have moved on to Death of the Outsider rather than an immediate second playing of Dishonored 2.  I’ve just barely started and so far it seems extremely interesting because the character of Billie Lurk is now one that I feel familiar enough with to be able to experience this story in full.  Prior to playing through the DLCs to the original game however…  that would have not been the case.  This gets back to the great flaw of this series… in that you cannot simply drop into a new title without having experienced all of the old content.  There are going to be so many things you simply never get explained…  because Arkane took the time to explore them in depth in another title.  I am secretly hoping that the Bethesda show this weekend shows us yet another excellent title in this line of games.  We talked a bit this weekend about how amazing the Dishonored-verse would make for a role playing game.  There are so many locations that are hinted at in the games that we never get to see, so I feel like the world can keep expanding.  I do however hope that the next titles are going to be like Death of the Outsider, in that they take a character connected to the events we have already played…  but not someone we have already explored the story arc of like Corvo or Daud.

Fallout 76 Thoughts

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If you have been completely disconnected from gaming media then you may not have known there was a pretty significant announcement yesterday from Bethesda, or at least a very tantalizing teaser.  The truth is this started several days ago when they began a live stream that simply focused on a color test pattern with a vault boy bobble head beside it.  During the stream various weird things happened and you can see a run down of these clips over on Polygon.  There were apparently over 2 million people who at least watched some of the stream and at the very end…  we were treated with a teaser for a new game called Fallout 76.

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This morning I am going to dig into some of the details of the trailer.  It opens on an old pipboy setting off an alarm that plays Take Me Home Country Roads which gives us I believe the location of the vault…  as 76 was rumored to be a “control” vault in Virginia.  The song itself says West Virginia… but the majority of the topography that it describes is actually in Western Virginia.  As the image continues to slide into frame we can see a clock denoting that it is October 27th of 2102…  6:34 in the morning if that matters.  This is significant because this places Fallout 76 is the earliest fallout game to date.  Here are some important dates in the fallout universe…

  • The Great War – Saturday October 23rd 2077
  • Fallout 76 Trailer – Monday October 27th 2102
  • Fallout 1 – 2161
  • Fallout 2 – 2241
  • Fallout 3 – 2277
  • Fallout New Vegas – 2281
  • Fallout 4 – 2287

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Basically Fallout 76 is taking place 25 years after The Great War that started and ended the same day as the bombs fell.  In theory Vault 76 was supposed to open 20 years after the destruction of the world so that folks could go reclaim the wastes.  So we are left with a conundrum…  because if you see the scene with the Reclamation Day celebration, it does not look like those are leftovers from 5 years ago.  If you look at the balloons there are some with air and some without…  so unless  balloons work vastly different in the post apocalyptic world that would lead me to believe this is a few days after the Reclamation Day party…. which would make a sort of sense given that it would be 5 days after the 25th anniversary of the Great War.

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There is a poster on the wall showing that Vault 76 was created to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the founding of the United States, which syncs up with the Mothership Zeta references from Fallout 3.  Past that I am not sure what else can be gleaned about it other than I just think its cool to see all of the things we have found from other games still in a relatively new state.  Granted 25 years have passed but I think in the most part we are seeing a vault before the systems start to break down.  In truth probably the same Overseer is in place that was put there the moment the folks went into the vault, and most of the administration is likely all the same.  Sure there might have been some children of the vault in that time frame but for the most part the people who are exiting are the ones who entered in the first place.  According to the Citadel records there were supposedly 500 individuals in the control vault giving you a nice big number of potential people to go out exploring the wastes as.

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In this shot you see Jangles the Moon Monkey and on the bed is a fedora and a fully loaded backpack, which tells me that we are seeing the player character just about to embark out of the vault, gathering up their stuff.  This syncs up with the final shot in the trailer of a person in a Vault 76 jumpsuit slapping on a pipboy…  likely the one from the table and preparing to leave.  Again most of these establishing shots seem to exist for fan service, so we can see what the vault looks like before things start going to hell.  All of the things we regularly pick up as junk are shown…  from an Abraxo box to some Sugar Bombs…  and of course the ever present Nuka-Cola.

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There is a trophy case that is way too blurry to read at 1080 p or lower resolution, but I was able to crank the video up to 4k and capture a decent shot of what at least one of the awards says.

Outstanding Achievement Award

In appreciation for your commitment and dedication to our isolation program.  Sacrificing many so some can live.

The Excellence in Bravery award is a little harder to read but it seems very similar… and you can notice at the top of the shot an award for the “Annual Vault Halloween Costume Contest” which I guess might explain why there is the head of what looks to be some sort of a gopher mascot character on the top of the bookcase in the image with the 1776-2076 poster.

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So ultimately what does all of this mean?  This is a new Fallout setting that is far enough out of band with the rest of the games…  as to give it some legs to stand on its own.  This is set 59 years before Fallout 1 the earliest entry in the franchise and 185 years earlier than Fallout 4 the latest incarnation.  Jason Schreier the Game Developer Whisperer mentioned yesterday that the game would have some sort of an online component, and that this is what the Battlecry team in Austin has been working on.

A follow up tweet provides some additional details…

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To make things even weirder…  there is an Anonymous redditor on December 28th of 2017 posted “Fallout 76, a fallout themed rust clone coming soon”.  This was largely ignored by the community however because who the hell trusts an anonymous poster on reddit?  There have been so many things supposedly leaked there that turned out to be complete bullshit.  However in hindsight…  the person got the title right and if you combine that with the various comments from Schreier it has a little more weight to it.  I guess the ultimately question is… is that a game I really want to play?  I have never been a huge fan of the Rust/Ark/H1Z1 competitive survival game genre, so I think ultimately for me… it will depend on how much forced player versus player interaction is in the game.  If there are straight PVE servers (or the ability to roll custom servers)… then yeah I will probably be happy as a clam to play this game.

Unfortunately I think I would have rather had just a straight MMORPG conversion of the Fallout universe ala Elder Scrolls Online than some sort of a survival building game.  If I was putting on my wishing hat and going for broke…  I would have loved for Fallout 76 to be a small scale group/solo game along the lines of Destiny/The Division set in the Fallout universe, where you roam around a big open world wasteland with MMO style player progression but a more drop in/drop out sort of ethic and seamless 10-20 player instanced pockets.  Sure base building would have been probably a big part of that given they have really amazing tech to let us have essentially “player housing” but the focus would be on exploration and completing of story content rather than on killing other players.  I really hope the progression is not based on killing other players.

I’ve devoted entirely too much time this morning to tearing into this…  so what are your thoughts?  Are you excited for the June 10th pre-E3 Bethesda press conference?  Are you excited about the prospects of Fallout 76?  Are you afraid this is going to be another fucking Battle Royale game?  I have some mixed thoughts after more additional information has come out about it, but that said… I will still be watching on twitch as the official announcements are being made.

 

Moogle Charro Suit

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Last night I had all of the intent in the world to come home and stream some Monster Hunter World nonsense.  Wednesday is likely going to be one of those days I stream because it is a relative dead spot for the rest of the Moogle’s Pom team.  When I got home from training however I was just mentally toast and was not sure if I could handle non-streaming interaction…  let alone being “on” while playing something.  As a result I slipped into the comfortable chill of Final Fantasy XV.  As you can see I have decided to go with a completely different outfit for Noct because the Mariachi Charro suit with a Moogle Riding a Chocobo on the back is freaking amazing.  I’ve always thought the classic Mariachi attire looked classy as fuck, and since FFXV is sorta this weird homage to the Americas it sorta fits.  I also swapped the Regalia paint job for a classic two tone with black/gold rims and the black and white interior.

This is mostly going to not be a post about Final Fantasy XV but I had some screenshots to break up the blocks of text so I am using them.  I’ve been in ITILv3 certification classes and it is simply a lot of information to consume and remember.  What is making things more difficult is that some of our practices at work go against the norm and even attribute completely different meanings to some of the terms I am going to have to be tested on.  Some of my peers talked about just being mentally toast when they got out of class each night and that is precisely what I am going through.  We’ve taken six quizzes, a 40 term vocabulary test, a bunch of brain dump review sessions…  and today is the day.  We have a handful of study activities and a practice test…  and then finally at 1:35 to be exact I take the online proctored certification test.

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I spent some time reading last night and watched a few study guide videos…  but I could tell that no more data was going to fit into my brain that evening.  Its almost as though there is some maximum buffer of learning that I have reached each day and only sleep manages to come along and clear it out.  At this point we have covered probably well over 100 specific terms that we are going to need to understand and differentiate from other super similar terms.  It is not like my job is on the line if I don’t pass…  but I will catch massive hell because my predecessor did not when everyone else that went through a giant class together did.  So far I have made roughly 80% on all of the quizzes so I am trending to be able to make the minimum of 65% needed to pass the test and get certification.  Ultimately I will feel better once I have taken the practice exam and seen how I do on that.

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In the meantime…  I am ready for some normalcy to return to my week.  I’ve been in training each day since Tuesday with my entire focus being absorbing as much raw information as I can.  Coming back to work Friday and doing normal tasks is going to feel super odd given that I have been holed up in a classroom for the last three days.  It honestly may not be until the weekend that I have decompressed enough from this experience to be able to interact with other human beings on a regular basis.  I have stuff that I ultimately want to do in both Final Fantasy XIV and Monster Hunter World, and I have not even had a chance to check in and see what the weeklies are this time around.  I know the Wiggler quest ends soon, and then shortly after that the Anjanath Horizon Zero Dawn quest.  I need to make sure that everyone I know has the bits from that quest they still need before it poofs.

On the Final Fantasy XIV front I need to burn through the rest of the main story quest so that I can unlock the rest of the dungeons needed for Expert Roulette.  I would really like to get into a comfortable pattern of coming home and doing the few daily roulettes for bookrocks in order to catch up gear wise.  I would also really love to grab some people I trust and run through Rabanastre so I can get some quick explanations of the fight before I start tanking it on a regular basis.  I could in theory run it as Samurai, but I am not sure if my gear is good enough to get in there on that class.

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Finally last night I spent a little bit of time downstairs in bed playing around with my 2DS XL.  Firstly I have to say how much better I like using this than the 3DS XL.  For whatever reason the screen on the 3DS always screwed with my eyes.  I could never actually see the 3D paralax effect and as a result everything just looked fuzzy even with the 3D settings flipped all the way to the lowest settings.  As a result the 2DS screen looks so much crisper and as a result every game just feels better.  The other awesome side effect is the fact that it is so much lighter, and also qualifies as a “New” device meaning I can finally put some of my favorite SNES games on it.  I managed to catch Monster Hunter 4U on sale for $8…  but sadly at the time of posting this it has gone back up to its full price.  I started that game and already like it more than I did Generations, and I managed to defeat the Well-Done Steak boss on my first attempt because of figuring it out from World.  These games feel so fresh and new… and I have to think a lot of my reluctance to play them had to have been how much the screen frustrated my eyes.

 

One Big Download

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Last night was mostly an evening filled with frustration…  at least the tail end of the night.  I’ve talked about this before but I have a slightly different setup from most people in that all of my gaming stuff is upstairs in my office with both consoles and my real gaming pc hooked up to my 4k television up there.  My wife needed to grade last night which is traditionally a downstairs activity and after about an hour and some change I felt sorta bad being upstairs while she was downstairs…  when I was technically playing something I could play on the laptop.  So I stopped the stream and headed downstairs to in theory chill on the sofa.

The core problem with that idea is that FFXV is a 75 gigabyte download which took legitimately a couple of hours to download over the wireless.  However once we reached what I thought would be the end of the download…  it stalled out for thirty minutes with zero activity.  In the past when this has happened I have paused downloads in steam and restarted…  and then things wake the hell up and finish up.  That was not at all what happened this time however and the game decided to start downloading everything again.  So when I finally gave up last night we were about 40 gb into download number two…  and I have zero clue if it actually finished over night.

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According to Steam I have spent 72 minutes playing Final Fantasy XV and for the most part it feels great and looks amazing as a PC game.  There are some weird hiccups where the game would freeze but I was not sure if that was part of the whole combat engine or not.  It would always happen after I did a big attack so maybe this is something that also happened on the PS4 that I am simply not remembering.  As far as the actual feel of controlling the game with mouse and keyboard… it feels amazing other than the menu interactions.  What it seems like you would logically do is select the menu item with your mouse, but that is not at all what happens.  Instead you have to sort of scroll through the menus with WASD or a super awkward move the mouse in a general direction to pick an option scheme.

Combat however feels way more fluid for me using a mouse and keyboard than a controller which is ultimately the mode of the game I am going to be interacting with the most.  This is one of those times that I am super thankful that the game is constantly prompting you which button you should push when, because it allowed me to drop right into the game and start playing rather than trying to memorize the keybindings.  The biggest thing that just feels instantly better thought is basic sword attacks because I always felt like I was never quite dexterous enough with my fingers to do all of the interactions I needed to do.  I was constantly missing blocks and parries which are things that I just sorta now do instinctively with a mouse.

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I didn’t make it super far into the game because of the nonsense I tried to do with the laptop, but I did make it to Gauldin Quay which moves the story forward a tiny bit.  That said I was absolutely more into doing the side quests than I ever cared about the main story.  All in all I am happy I wound up picking this up for PC and look forward to making it further than I did on the console.  This is mostly going to be a downstairs and chilling game for me, and the demo performed well on my laptop.  Sure it lost a lot of detail that I get on the full gaming rig, but it will be fine for running around and slashing things to death.

Frying Pans and Nora Braves

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Over the last few days I have had a hankering to play some State of Decay.  This was a game that I originally started playing on the Xbox 360, then picked up when it was eventually released on the PC.  When the Year One Survivor Edition came out I picked that up too…  as well as buying it for a friend that I thought would enjoy it.  Since I had not actually tried streaming from my Xbox One, I decided to pick the game up on that platform and give it a go.  Basically Undead Labs is an awesome developer and I have no problem supporting them by picking it up on multiple platforms.  We don’t officially have a release date for State of Decay 2…  but based on the trickle of activity I am hoping we get some more news soon.  My hope is the sequel takes everything that worked well about the first game, but adds in the ability to hang out and explore the zombie filled landscape with friends.

Watch Hanging out playing some State of Decay YOSE on Xbox One from Belghast on www.twitch.tv
So as a result last night I fired up the stream while testing out a few new screen elements and bashed some zombies.  If you are for any reason interested you can check out the Twitch VOD here (or click the embedded player above thanks to Jaedia), but it involved a lot of me stumbling around trying to figure out what to do and a few gloriously brutal deaths.  I also may or may not have run over the NPC that was following me around and bashing things with a frying pan.  The kinda cool thing last night is I had a bunch of folks that were completely different from what I would consider the normal crew of people who take pity on me and hang out while I stream.  It’s really bizarre for me to have someone pop in the channel that I don’t actually know.  It was a surprising amount of fun to just hang out and publicly fail at playing a video game.

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Right now I don’t have much in the way of stamina as far as “being on” goes.  I lasted a little bit over an hour before needing to go do something else with less of an audience for a bit.  I am not sure if it was just that I was tired dying in State of Decay and wanted to play something else for awhile, or if I was tired of interacting.  I need to sort out a proper way to swap games when I am just not feeling the one I am playing, because in truth I wound up logging into Monster Hunter World and farming content and it would have been nice to have a little company doing so.  I originally logged in with the goal of doing a little SOS Roulette, but noticed a note in the Login Bonus about the Aloy event going live.  For those who are curious, the quest is titled “The Proving” and shows up under events as a 6 Star High Rank mission that requires the player to be Hunter Rank 11, so you may need to do a little bit of progressing to get there.

There are two pieces to the set, a full suit of armor similar to the Ryu gear that literally transforms you into the Aloy character model.  Additionally there is a version of Aloy’s bow that can be upgraded to a Rarity 7 weapon with some elder dragon bits.  The gear can be upgraded a total of 10 times allowing it to remain fairly relevant for a long while.  If you want to craft the gear you are looking at collecting the following….

Aloy Armor

  • Nora Brave Trophy – 4 – Obtained from Event Quest
  • Anjanath Pelt+ – 14
  • Anjanath Nosebone+ – 6
  • Anjanath Gem – 1
  • 30,000 Zenny

Aloy’s Bow

  • Nora Brave Trophy – 2
  • Anjanath Fang+ – 3
  • Monster Keenbone – 5
  • Anjanath Plate – 1
  • 16,000 Zenny

Aloy’s War Bow – Upgrade to Rarity 7

  • Nora Brave Trophy – 3
  • Anjanath Scale+ – 7
  • Elder Dragon Bone – 3
  • Wyvern Gem – 1
  • 32,000 Zenny

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Now it should be noted that the only part of this that you absolutely have to collect during the event are the Nora Brave Trophies which drop at least one per mission… and there was one time I lucked out and got four in one shot.  The rest of the bits can be gained from either normal High Rank Anjanath hunts or in the case of the upgrade by taking down Elder Dragons to get those bones.  I ran the mission a total of five times last night and got everything I needed to craft both the base rarity 5 bow and the rarity 5 armor.  The cool thing about this is that it not only makes you look like Aloy… but you also MOVE like Aloy.  Not really sure how to describe it other than that, because it feels like you are playing Horizon Zero Dawn set in the Monster Hunter World setting.  I have no clue how long this event is going to run, but personally I knocked mine out doing good ole SOS Roulette.  That said more than willing to help folks get their parts if they need them.  Honestly I might farm it a bunch while it is available because it seems to be a really good way to get High Rank Anjanath parts.

 

Megafauna Rider

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I spent most of my weekend playing Horizon Zero Dawn instead of Destiny 2 for a change.  On Saturday night we recorded our September game club show and as a result I pushed myself to beat the main story quest in HZD.  Firstly…  this is really a foreign mode of play for me and in many ways it takes a lot of fun for me out of the game to focus fire on the main story.  I remember bowing out of the FFXV show in part because I didn’t want to ruin the game by forcing myself to ignore all of the side stuff.  With Horizon Zero Dawn I am sorta glad that I forced myself past this hump and buckled down on finishing.  This might be some of the best science fiction that I have experienced regardless of form factor be it book, movie or game.  The problem is it takes a really long time into the game before the hooks are set and you get enough of an inkling of what might be happening just beneath the surface.  There is this place that a lot of people seem to stall out, where you exit the sacred lands of the Nora and before you are handed the reins to the real story of the game.  I personally stalled out here as did Void and I have a sneaking suspicion SquirrelPope did as well based on some comments last night.  Once you get past this hump however it is an amazing roller coaster of a ride all the way to the finish.

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Since I was forced to play in a manner that is really not my style, I spent some time Sunday going back and meandering my way through the world.  The game does the whole hand wavy “the final events have yet to happen” thing after you finish the credit roll.  I feel this obligation to sit through the credits as a sort of homage to all of the people and work that went into making the game.  This one however tested my resolve because it is quite possibly the longest credit roll I have seen, but it just shows how much effort goes into making a modern AAA blockbuster.  I do however highly suggest you wade through because there is a massive payoff at the end that explains one of the weird little things that happens in the world as you explore it.  I think more than anything that is what I love the most about this game… it is constantly planting seeds that do in fact grow into something cool by the end of the game.  There seems to be nothing placed in this world that does not at least eventually lend its way to a larger purpose.  The secrets of the game are revealed to you at the same time as they are to your character Aloy, and as a result the experience is really interesting.  There were several times I thought I had guessed how this was all going to play out in the end, but the game kept throwing me curve balls.  The end result is a mythos as rich as any of the big tenets of geekdom, and I am absolutely rabidly looking forward to the expansion that is coming in November.

 

A Warm Blanket

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Today marks the beginning of the whole “Daily Creative Thing” business and while you might have been expecting something from me…  unfortunately you can’t really expect me to get up and do creativity by six in the morning.  Sitting down and writing out a blog post is challenging enough.  I am however planning on making something happen today or tonight depending upon when the muse hits me.  The other big thing going on today is that it is my Nineteenth wedding anniversary, and while I am not entirely certain what we are doing to mark the occasion yet I am sure we will come up with something.  In truth what it will probably mean is that my wife and I go out to dinner, and then wander around hitting the various stores and checking to see if they have started marking down their back to school stuff yet.  “School Supply Season” is like Christmas for my wife, and while this is not exactly the normal thing for people to get excited about…  it is for a teacher.  I’ve spent many an hour over the years scrounging for one last folder or ruler or package of gluesticks for her classroom.

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Work is still madness and I am still finding myself deep in the throes of turtle mode.  Honestly more than anything what happens during these times is I resort to comfort gaming.  I end up dusting off a game that I had not been playing that much and spend a significant chunk of time roaming around its world.  Lately that has meant an awful lot of Rift because much like Phantasy Star Online yesterday… I carry a significant torch for this game as well.  In honor of the occasion I decided to vary up my default wardrobe a bit from what I had been running around in the first screenshot… to what I am now running around in…  which is honestly mostly just some dye and swapping a few pieces.  I never managed to hit the “Prophecy of” level cap and I’ve just been working my way through any of the content that I had left to do in various zones.  So far the thing that I am liking the most about the content is the way that each zone has this major event that takes place at the very end of the zone that ties up a bunch of loose threads from various quests and packages it neatly in this really epic fight.  In many ways Rift feels like a game from a different time, and this has both good and bad aspects to it.  The bad is it feels much slower than other MMOs and the time to kill and time to level can feel a little grating at times.  However on the good side this is also this same thing that makes it feel familiar and lived in…  and something that I can return to over and over to wear it like a blanket.  The main problem that I have with Rift that ultimately causes me to wander away is that I don’t have my social infrastructure here.  My circle of friends that I record the podcast and game on a nightly basis with…  have moved on past this game and will likely never return.  At this point I think I am just too set in my ways to branch out and build new communities, and I also know that I will soon return to the fold and wander away from the game myself.

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Another game I have been playing a not insignificant amount of is Fallout 4.  This runs pretty damned smoothly on the laptop and it has been a recent go to for when I want to wander around a world and explore a bit.  In the theme of carrying torches for games… I have loved Fallout since I saved up my pennies to buy the first game when it released back in 1997.  I was going to college at the time and not really buying many games, but still made a beeline to Walmart to pick it up once I knew they had it in stock.  Side note… that was literally the only place in town that sold PC games and was before the mass expansion of Game Stop.  At that point Software Etc and Babbages still existed as separate entities as well as Comp USA and the unrelated Circuit City and Computer City.  When the games made the tradition to the open world format I was skeptical but quickly got on board thanks to my love of the Elder Scrolls games.  Now the modern Fallout games serve as this familiar touchstone that I can keep returning to anytime I need solace.  I’ve started countless games of Fallout 3 and New Vegas and it seems like now I am carrying that tradition over into Fallout 4 as well.  My default play mode tends to be to wander towards a corner of the map and do whatever happens to be there.  I am not really big for following larger quests in this game, and I likely would have never actually beaten it were it not for the fact that we chose this as a game club game… and I felt obligated to do so.  Gaming in general for me is not ever really about beating the game… but more about existing in that game world for a period of time.  The game world of choice is determined by whatever mood I happen to be in.  Fallout for me tends to be for when I am in a slower paced mood and want to wander around aimlessly dispensing frontier justice on the raiders.

 

Mobile Matters

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

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

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

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

 

Regularly Playing: May Edition

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I had a realization over the weekend as I stared at my sidebar…  that it has been a significant amount of time since I last did the regularly playing thing.  The last one I was able to find was on October 3rd of 2016…  some 210 days ago.  I may or may not have completely fallen off the wagon on this concept.  The original intent was to take a moment once a month to “true up” the side bar and shift out what I was no longer playing for what I was currently playing.  As a result we are going to see some significant moving and shaking in the list as a result.

To Those Remaining

Final Fantasy XIV

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I am still going fairly strongly in Final Fantasy XIV, and while I might not log in every night I am logging in multiple times a week.  I am definitely still making the Tuesday night raid thing, and while we don’t always make progress each week we get together to do something.  Thanks to the wonder of cross server grouping we have been able to pull in our friend Kelesti into some stuff as well.  Largely we are all in a big holding pattern until the release of Stormblood which comes in July, and as a result I am still in the middle of my “level everything” binge.  Right now my Machinist is just shy of 40, and that leaves Astrologian the only thing that has yet to be touched.  The whole purpose behind all of this madness is so that I can purge my vault of anything at minimum sub 30… and the grand hope is to sort through anything sub 50 and be extremely judicious in what I choose to keep.  Still having a lot of fun in Palace of the Dead, just have had other distractions of late.

To the Returning and New

Skyforge

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This is one of those games that has not graced my sidebar in a very very long time.  In July of 2015 I played quite a bit of the game around the time that it launched, and while I enjoyed it… it always felt like it was missing something.  Apparently October of last year an expansion released that added in pretty much all of the features that I am finding myself enjoying now.  Additionally the game just works better with a controller than it ever did with a keyboard and mouse and while I returned primarily on the PS4… I am also dipping my toes back into the PC experience as well.  Both are extremely fun and I am not entirely sure how long I will be splitting time before I officially pick one platform.  Whatever the case if you have ever played this game I highly suggest checking it out.  It has some issues… namely you are limited to three classes at the start with no clear path to add new ones.  However each of the classes is doing something somewhat unique which makes them more enjoyable than the standard Tank, Mage and Healer that they represent.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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There are two things that are shocking about this game gracing my list.  Firstly that apparently I never actually made a “now playing” widget for it, and secondly… that I am back playing it again.  I blame a sequence of nostalgic events happening at exactly the same time…  all of the hype about the next Star Wars movie, the love of Rogue One, and my deep enjoyment of Mass Effect Andromeda has lead to an upwelling of love for both Bioware and Star Wars.  As a result I have returned to an old mission, which is trying to level through all of the class stories.  I managed to finish off the Sith Sorcerer and am now through Hoth so far in the Imperial Agent.  It seems as though I picked one of the best storylines for last, and even though I am not traditionally a stealthy/shooty type class…  there is something extremely awesome about this one.  I largely went Sniper because my Smuggler on the other side of the fence is Sawbones/Healer.  I am having a blast right now, so I am going to ride the enjoyment until it lasts.  The goal is to push forward into the story I have not touched on my Jedi Knight main after finishing the Agent story…  which involves Shadow of Revan, Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne.

Horizon Zero Dawn

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I do not normally put many single player games on the regularly playing list, but we have this sequence of amazing ones being released in short order.  One of those is Horizon Zero Dawn, which is a game that I hit hard at launch… and then for whatever release lost momentum to Mass Effect Andromeda.  As a result I have been slowly playing it here and there as time and desire allows.  I could force myself through the story, but I want to play it when I want to play it… and that is right now involving the occasional hour long session of hunting giant robot dinosaurs rather than pushing forward the main story.  I am still very much enjoying the game, but I need to find some catalyst that really gets me back into it and dying to play the next chapter.  In the mean time however I am still enjoying the “bowplay” if I can coin that term.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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This is very much another “as desire hits me” sort of experience.  When the game came out I picked it up on the Wii U and in the time between then and now I have managed to pick up a switch effecting starting back at square one.  This stalled my progress a little bit but for the most part I have returned to where I left in the Wii U and am once again moving forward.  I have designs on starting to take this to work and playing a little over lunch and on break times.  While I have the switch I really have not done a lot of handheld play with it remaining largely docked upstairs so I can play it with the pro controller.  It is a great game and in spite of having a lot of things that frustrate me about the game… is yet another in a long list of titles contending for my game of the year bid.

To Those Departing

World of Warcraft

While I still have an active account, I am just not really playing at all.  I logged in shortly after the last patch and got bored and logged out again.  I fell off the raiding bandwagon about halfway through Nighthold, and honestly just sort of reached the point I have in so many other expansions.  I think in theory I could come back and play casually and enjoy the experience but there are just simply too many other things I would rather be playing right now.  So as a result this is going to find its way off my side bar, but I did have the forethought to simply comment it out rather than remove it because I am sure at some point around Blizzcon time I will get hit by the bug once more.

Rift

Much like with Nightmare Tide… I just failed to gain traction with the latest expansion the Starfall Prophecy.  A large part of my struggle with Rift is that I can never seem to find a warrior spec that I really like anymore.  What I ultimately want is a juggernaut for doing PVE/Leveling content that can burn through the mobs with nonexistent downtime.  If I ever find that spec again I will return to the game and happily finish up leveling.  The other huge struggle is that the game lacks a reliable current font of knowledge.  The forums in theory have a lot of the information but it is this blend of current information and ancient and no longer reliable, and I just lack the mental fortitude to sift through it.  I am hoping that after writing this… Muspel or PK will come to the rescue once again with a viable Warrior build like they have in the past.  The other huge challenge with Rift is the fact that none of my gaming infrastructure is playing the game, nor do any of my regular suspects have any interest in the game at this point.

Destiny

It hurts more than a little bit to be adding this game to this space on my list.  The truth is I am just not playing it right now and I don’t see that changing for the foreseeable future.  I have too many other games fighting for my attention, and while I absolutely know I will be returning with Destiny 2…  the amount of stuff that I can do solo or want to so solo is pretty limited.  At this point it feels like I would be working towards something that is ultimately going to disappear.  I also have a lot of questions because as it is right now… I am looking at making the leap to PC from PS4 for the second game… and I am not sure what if anything might transfer.

Guild Wars 2

Adding this one to the list really doesn’t take a lot of effort.  I was only into this game so long as some of my friends were actively playing it.  Once Tam and Ash and Kodra faded away… so did I.  It is still not my favorite game but I have developed a certain appreciation for it.  Most of what it is doing however isn’t really all that interesting to me.  I largely got to play along with my friends only because I had maxed out my Warrior soloing for ages without them.  He was geared and ready to go… and will still be there if it ever has a resurgence.  Much like Warframe this is a game that was not ultimately for me…  but somewhat enjoyable so long as I was playing with friends.