Leaving Flatwoods

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Yesterday it turns out that I was not crazy, and that Fallout 76 was in fact active and fully launched for most of the day.  When I popped in to get a screenshot for the blog post, I noticed that it was allowing me to hit play…  and sure enough I got in with a half dozen people roaming around the map.  The funny thing about this is I remember doing something similar during the launch of Elder Scrolls Online and getting into that game several hours early.  I guess it pays to be patched up and ready to go when Bethesda launches a new game.  The funny thing is though, since I knew the game was available it caused me to approach launch day with a lot more chill than I normally have.  This is also helped out by the fact that I had a character with progress that carried over from the beta, and I didn’t exactly feel a rush to get to a point of sustainability quickly.  Now that said I am always seeming to need a source of food and a source of water and weirdly enough a source of wood… to keep boiling said water.

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For most of the beta I spent my time around the Flatwoods area, which is one of the first towns you encounter…  if you actually follow the quest directions.  However it is an area rich in resources and quests so in theory it is a pretty good idea to go there first.  We did a jaunt to the far south at one point and captured the Poseidon power plant as a Trio, but I never managed to make it to Morgantown which was where the next major quest objective was directing me towards.  So I set forth on a journey that would take me up Interstate 59 to Route 64 and on into the basic vicinity of Morgantown.  I largely followed the highway system in part because I figured if I were doing this for real… I would wind up doing that as a way of keeping track of where I was going.  Sure I could have set a waypoint off in the distance and made my way across the open terrain, but I was curious what attractions I might be able to find from the highway.

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Roughly halfway down Interstate 59 I encountered a Slocum’s Joe which for the uninitiated is the Fallout Universe version of a coffee/donut shop.  On the road beside it however was something magical…  I am guessing this player spent every last minute of the beta hoarding resources to build this really awesome base, giving him one hell of a start for when the game launched proper.  What was creepy however is that the mutated hounds were flopping stuck in the side of his fortifications.  They were one of the random encounters I ran into along the road so I am guessing they attacked the base… and then got gunned down but the two turrets up above.  My previous camp location had the problem of constantly being attacked by feral ghouls, and in one case they managed to damage the turrets and make their way into the base…  and I logged in just as they were taking out my  generator.  So as such I started thinking more defensible fortifications…  and this guy here seems to have a great design…  minus the fact that the steps are wide open.  Maybe the NPCs can’t walk up steps so good?

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When I got to Morgantown I found this bridge with an eyebot moving back and forth across it playing its patriotic theme…  and behind it was leading a trail of rat pups pied piper style.  I watched the bridge for quite a bit and nothing else seemed to be pathing across it due to the fact that this neutral/peaceful event was programmed to take place there.  This gave me a bit of an idea…

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As such I opted to move my camp and reconstruct it underneath the bridge… thinking that this map feature might make for a slightly more defensible outpost.  This was well and good until I realized that the ground was just uneven enough to make erecting a barrier of fences nigh impossible.  I’ve built as much as I realistically can at this moment because I have run out of resources.  However the area surrounding my camp is full of logs, so my hope is they will have re-spawned each time I visit the camp and can keep harvesting a decent amount of lumber that way.  Additionally I am on the outskirts of Morgantown, which should serve as fertile scavenging grounds for parts to make more stuff.  The camp being nearby will let me shuffle loads of things over to it and dump them in the machinery there to free up my inventory.  I need to learn to pair down my weapons and carry only the things that I know I will be immediately using.  The truth is I have largely settled on my serrated machette and my trusty 10 mm pistol…  but in both cases I need to build the level 10 version of each I think.  Unfortunately my building spree has run me out of other resources as well.

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The biggest takeaway from last night is that this is in fact a Fallout game.  My wife got home super late and as a result I largely played things other than fallout until around 7:30.  By 8 pm however I was deeply engaged in the game and did not really look up or pay attention to the time until a little before 11 pm when I hurriedly scrambled off to bed.  Another friend managed to play until 4 am without realizing it.  When you are focused on this objecting or that while exploring this deceptively large and densely populated map…  all other things in the world sort of fade away.  I still have not really encountered any players in a negative fashion, and while they are out there… once I left the Fallout 76 proper area and Flatwoods especially…  I stopped encountering them.  That is not to say that there are not players out there… the above screenshot I took to show off where my camp is located and you can see a number of dots sprinkled around the map representing other players.  That seems like a large number for the roughly 6 am when I took it.  More than that however I learned a few key pieces of information about why the world is the way it is… and what happened to most of the people that were remaining.  That however is a tale that I am going to save for another time, given that it factors on some serious spoilers.

Shock to the System

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Yesterday I had the day off and I am sorta thankful for that.  It means that I missed driving in the first snow of the season.  It isn’t that the roads would have been slick or anything… it is just more a case of folks acting crazy in inclement weather.  As a result I stayed home and dealt with the air conditioning folks doing our winter maintenance checkup on the system.  I also spent a good deal of time playing various video games and also making a batch of Chicken Tikka Masala.  My wife unfortunately did not get the day off and as such I wanted something to warm up her belly when she got home.

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While waiting on the folks to get here, and while they were doing their thing… I played a lot of Diablo 3 on the Switch and have moved on into Act 2.  I like this port of the game quite a bit, but as I have talked about…  mobile gaming just doesn’t fit that cleanly into my life.  If I have access to my other machines I would probably rather play them…  and the switch is just heavy enough to be awkward to play while laying in bed.  However I heard last night that apparently the Switch version is what Tamrielo needed to really get into the game as he now has a Necromancer in its 60s… which is significantly higher than I think he has ever gotten a character before?  The controls feel good, but for someone who is super used to how things work on the PC… it is taking a lot of adjustment.  I equate it to someone reciting a poem you know in a foreign language…  you understand what they are saying but there is a lot of translation happening.

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As far as most of the day… I spent a good deal of time playing Path of Exile…  and I really need to figure out how to leave public channels.  I also decided to spend a little money with the game and bought one of the supporter packs that they are just about to phase out when the new expansion releases.  I figure at this point I have gotten enough joy out of the game that I really should pay something for it.  This gave me a bit of cash shop currency which I then used to get a better looking weapon and shield…  though I am wishing I had gone with something else for the shield because it does not match the outfit at all.  Basically my gameplay tends to revolve around Molten Strike, Blade Vortex and Leap…  everything else is largely superfluous and as such I am completely cool losing W as a keybind to give me back the move forward functionality I am used to in Diablo 3.  I flirted briefly with binding leap to spacebar, but ran into issues with the game needing a close all windows keybind to replace the spacebar I took.  Once I figure out a decent option for that I might go back to spacebar for leap since I prefer having a movement key bound there.

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As far as Monster Hunter World goes…  I am in an odd place where I need some Kirin+ items…  but for whatever reason do not have access to High Rank Kirin.  I spent a good chunk of the night trying various quests to try and whittle down whatever it takes to unlock the High Rank version of the fight, but failing miserably.  Essentially I need a couple materials to get the last of my layered armor pieces from the Kulve Taroth event… and I am not sure if I will still be able to do the turn-ins after the event or not.  I know that I can craft Kulve Armor without issue, and have gathered up more than enough mats to make a full set of that once I farm up the Elder Dragon gems.  I’ve been sitting at Hunter Rank 49 for awhile now, which means that I have to take down a Tempered Kirin.  Last night I made several attempts and while one came super close…  there is always the problem of someone fainting.  In this particular run it was me that failed…  but in others I managed to stay alive 100% of the time and someone else got the carts.  Ultimately I will get through this… but in reality I just want the parts from it and could care less about moving my Hunter Rank higher at this very moment.  Time to research what exactly I need to have already completed to unlock the needed High Rank hunt.

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There are so many games right now out that I’ve not had a chance to really devote much time to.  On the 16th another one gets added to that stack in the form of Let’s Go Eevee…  because Eevee is way cooler than Pikachu.  I need to figure out a better way to spend time with the switch because I have quite the backlog right now…  because I have not devoted anywhere near enough time to Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate or Starlink Battle for Atlas.  The only problem with Switch games is that they look like crap on my 4K setup upstairs, and they are not quite comfortable to play in bed.  So I need to figure out a happy middle ground where I feel comfortable playing the games and will also be willing to give up playing something on the PC.  Yes I realize these are the first worldiest of problems.

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Also in the extreme stack of games that need attention…  Fallout 76 launches I believe tonight?  Look when someone says Midnight I never quite know if they mean which specific night/morning.  I believe it launches tonight at Midnight EST, but when I popped in a moment ago to take screenshots the servers were up.  I am wondering if this was by accident, or if they are just going to let people trickle in that happen to try it.  Sadly I have work, but I can in fact verify that everything from my B.E.T.A. character is there and functional…   minus one turret that I placed on my base.  I am not sure if it got blown up, or if something glitched and it fell below the world or something.  Regardless Fallout 76 is either launching tonight… or has already launched and it will be tonight before I get to give it any attention.  I had a lot of fun with Kodra and Tam running amok, and now I am left with the decision of… do I play my already level 10 character from beta or do I roll something fresh.

Packed Weekend

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I was off Friday and as a result did something that I had been putting off for far too long.  For quite some time now I have had a new case that I needed to shift my main gaming machine into… so that I had enough room to slot the 1080 ti graphics card I picked up for cheap.  The problem is it has been a sequence of two things…  firstly not wanting to have my machine down on the weekends when I spent most of my time using it and doing things like recording AggroChat.  Secondly I have been dealing with some nasty bouts of anxiety and the little voice in my head kept telling me that I would screw something up and be without a gaming machine while I tried to fix it.  As a result I have used the powers of avoidance to keep kicking that can down the road until finally last Friday I took care of it.  It took me about three hours to gut everything from my previous case and install everything fresh in the new case…  with time in between to clean the components before seating them again.

Admittedly I was watching Netflix so was probably greatly slowed down by that as well, but regardless by noon-ish I was up and running and wondering why the hell I waited so long.  As is tradition when I get new hardware… I launch what feels like every game I have just to see what it looks like on the highest resolutions.  I now have officially entered the realm of 4k gaming… and it is glorious.  Sadly these scaled screenshots won’t really do it any justice… but seeing it in motion is gorgeous.  The other interesting thing I found out this weekend is that my beloved Parsec client, takes a 4K signal from my machine upstairs…  scales it dynamically down to 1080p and delivers it to the laptop without losing a lot of the fine detail.  The end result looks like I am running 1080p super sampled to 4k and still providing a much nicer experience than just playing the games at 1080p all without noticeable issues.

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Another thing that happened this weekend is that I managed to get together with Tam and Kodra and play the Fallout 76 B.E.T.A. aka… stress test.  At some point they sent all of us a few friend codes, and I shared one with a good friend and former coworker that was considering getting into the game.  That left me with two codes t hat I offered up to the AggroChat members.  Luckily the test times on Saturday happened at a time we could all be online and…  while I was enjoying the game solo, it really shines with friends.  Just the interaction between three vastly different play styles made it so we were constantly finding different interesting things to get engaged with.  I would find a chest and the other two would come over to see what was in it, or Kodra found a base that we could claim…  that then lead to an event where we had to build up the defenses and fight off a wave of scorched trying to take it from us.  The moment to moment gameplay and little doses of exploration was a glorious thing…  and also it ran great at 4k without issues.  I am really looking forward to being able to set up a private server for the AggroChat crew to roam around on.

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I also spent a decent amount of my time in Destiny 2, and managed to get my light level up to 575 which seems reasonable.  I’ve started getting 580 drops from Powerful/Prime Engrams, and I feel like soon the elevator to 600 will start to slow down a bit as has always been the case in Destiny.  I am mostly logging in and piddling around and trying to accomplish something that will net me an engram or two but have not really been playing very seriously this week.  It feels like there are just too many different things going on for me to really devote all of my resources towards any one of them.  I have the desire to play…  but the lack of focus to really push harder than I already am.

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I still say failure shots in Monster Hunter World are among the most interesting.  Right now the Kulve Taroth event is going on and I am trying to make sure I get in a few attempts each day so I can stock pile weapons.  So far I have gotten a few really interesting things, but I am less shocked each time I get something cool than I was during the running over on PS4.  At this point I have a few useful weapons for pretty much every slot, with the possible exception of Bow.  For whatever reason Bows are extremely scarce, and I remember that being the case on Playstation 4 as well… similarly I always seem to get Heavy Bowguns instead of Light Bowguns.  I do however have plenty of options to play around with, and I believe all of the items needed to make a full set of Kulve gear…  minus the various Elder Dragon gems which I will have to farm later.  My primary focus however is collecting the two sets of layered armor, which simply take repetition since the most tickets I have seen in a single run is 4.

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Another thing I messed about with this weekend was the demo of World of Warcraft Classic.  I started off playing a Tauren Warrior, which is legitimately the first character I ever created during the first stress test I got in back in 2004.  However…  Warriors about level 15 are miserable… and so is the Barrens… which were sort of this poorly thought out dumping ground of content.  Instead I opted to also recreate Lodin my Dwarf hunter and spend time roaming around Westfall.  I talk more at length about this on the podcast, but there are so many things that I remember…  but only after seeing them in person.  Like for example… I did not remember quest text scrolling as slow as it does.  That said I now remember seeing out an addon to speed up quest text scrolling, and that was legitimately the first addon I ever installed.  There are supposedly some tweaks you can make, but I am proud of blizzard in creating a way to legitimately play on a pseudo classic server with something resembling patch 1.12 on the client.  I also applaud them for giving it to the players as part of their normal World of Warcraft subscription.  I am likely going to play something up on a classic server, and I think it would be kinda cool to try some of the older content like Molten Core again.

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Diablo was effectively the game of the weekend… for reasons other than what I am about to talk about.  However I have been enjoying the hell out of playing Diablo 3 on the Switch, and wound up playing for quite a bit last night from bed.  I’ve not spent a lot of time with a console version of Diablo in spite of having Reaper of Souls on the PS4, in part because if I have access to a console… I can just play the PC version of the game I have devoted so many hours to.  However the switch is an interesting case because in theory I could drag it to work and play it over lunch, getting in some demon slaying on the go.  All in all I have enjoying the experience of playing it with the switch, and while blizzon was going on I was largely playing this in docked mode while watching the streams.

As far as the other Diablo news… for the moment I am just going to link to our podcast from this weekend…  because we spent the majority of the show talking about it.  I have thoughts still that I will ultimately put into blog post form…  in fact there were a few points during the weekend when I started drafting something in Google Docs, only to delete it all shortly after.  For the moment I am disappointed in both Blizzard and the Diablo Community, but am generally okay with a Mobile Diablo existing because Dragalia Lost has proved to me that it might be something I would be interested in.  It is going to take me a bit to work through my thoughts fully however because they are somewhat nuanced.  For now however… this is already a massive post so closing things out.

Fallout 76 B.E.T.A.

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Last night was the opening of the Fallout 76 PC Beta and by Beta I mean…  last minute stress test?  I mean there are a bunch of periods between the letters of B.E.T.A. but it might as well have been “Beta”…  but my frustrations over people misusing these terms can be a post for another day.  The primary reason why I can tell these are Stress Tests and not necessarily bug squashing beta tests is the fact that all of the players have been funneled into a tight play window.  So last night for example the test ran from 7 pm EDT to 11 pm EDT…  and technically I managed to fire up the game a little bit before that because it seems like they went live a wee bit early.  Thursday they are extending the window a bit given the issues that folks ran into last night allowing play from 2 pm EDT to 11 pm EDT…  which honestly isn’t super useful to me given that is 1 pm my time and I will be very much at work.  However I appreciate the effort and that seems like completely reasonable times for the EU players.

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I am not really sure what all I can actually say about this game that hasn’t already been revealed.  You need to set your expectations at “this is a Fallout 4 multiplayer mod without NPCs” and if you can sufficiently do that you will probably not be disappointed.  The character creator is effectively the same one we are used to with Fallout 4 and I managed to cobble together a reasonable facsimile of Belghast fairly quickly before venturing forth into the world.  There is a lot of weirdness going on with the game because at times… it feels like a much higher fidelity version of the Fallout 4 engine, then at other times the world feels like a nonsensical blurry mess even on “ultra” preset.  I have a feeling there is some sort of a dynamic scaling functionality going on that I am hoping is something we can eventually disable completely.  I would honestly rather have my frame rates dip below 60 occasionally than have the world freak out every so often.

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The biggest thing to keep in mind is you are playing with a lot of other players… and this can be a bit of a rude awakening given some design choices they made.  Namely when you first log into the game your microphone is completely open by default…  and so is literally everyone else’s.  At first I thought maybe I accidentally had a window open playing a video or something…  because upon arriving at the character creator I had some dude keep saying “PRESS X FOR SEX!” and I could not figure out if this was some sort of edgy tutorial or what.  Moments later I had a streamer ask the server to please not say anything racist because she was about to go live.  It was around this time that I went to the menus and figured out how to turn off voice chat completely.  Additionally I turned on the radio station…  both of which are things that greatly improve your experience.

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One of the things you have to realize about me and Fallout is just how much time I spent being a murder hobo roaming the countryside.  So in truth the lack of NPCs really wasn’t that big of a thing for me personally…  the game provides tons of feedback about what events happened before in an area in the form of found notes, journals, holo tapes that thankfully occasionally just start playing on their own without having to fiddle with the interface…  and in the scattered computer terminals.  Basically Fallout 76 is a game that wants you to read the story, and by doing so…  gives us lore hounds something to chew on without getting in the way of the folks who just want to run amok in large packs.  Occasionally you will encounter a robot that offers quests, but they largely serve as the only thing that would equate to the traditional fallout  dialog options.

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The game will put you through a sequence of tutorial steps that are designed to introduce you to how Fallout 4 worked…  but if you are like me you will have probably already done those things the moment you find your first crafting machine.  Sadly the game does not give you credit for already doing these things.  So for example the Second Helpings quest…  shows to Cook a Ribeye Steak and to optionally get a piece of Brahmin Meat.  At this point I had killed a half dozen Brahmin and had at least ten cooked steaks sitting in my inventory.  This is made more awkward in part because various folks will be doing various stages of the quest at the same time… and while it does not appear that you are actually competing with them for any resources…  Bethesda made the poor choice to make it so that if another player is using a machine that they lock you out of also using that machine.

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The long and short is… it was a fun game and I didn’t really have much in the way of actual interaction with other players.  There were to the best of my knowledge no gankers roaming around, in part because the deck is stacked heavily against them in the game.  That said I still probably will not get super serious about Fallout 76 until the custom server options are available and I can rent one for my friends to play on.  If I had the option to play this single player… I probably would… which I realize completely defeats the point of the game.  That said I do think it would be fun to run around with a group of friends and share resources in an environment where you can do things like dump stuff into a crate and not expect someone to come along behind you and take it all.

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Death seems to largely be meaningless apart from the fact that you drop some crafting resources when you die.  At first I thought you could simply go back to the place of your death and pick these up without issue…  however it seems like ANY player can pick up your sack of loot because I got a note saying someone looted mine while I was running back to the corpse.  It wasn’t a big deal because I didn’t really have any rare resources like circuit boards, but if I did… that would have been maddening.  I’ve not really tried the crafting system out in part because I didn’t want to try building anything in a region where so many random players were roaming around.  The positive is basically any town serves as a warp point, and all of them so far have had most of the crafting machines needed, so I didn’t necessarily find the need to build a base as of yet.  I enjoyed myself and look forward to playing it legitimately, but like I said… probably won’t play super heavily until I can get my own server or join the server of someone else that I trust.

Horror Story

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Last night I finished up the fragmented souls grind and picked up Horror Story, which is in fact as Squirrelpope suggested just a rebranding of The Origin Story.  However that is perfectly fine with me considering that I really loved that weapon in Year 1.  The biggest benefit of this weapon however is that it comes with baked in 600 light level…  which had a significant boost in my gearing process.  That is something I want to talk about briefly…  gearing feels much better.  Sure blues and purples by default drop at relatively low light levels like they did before.  However there are so many more opportunities to get poweful engrams, in fact it seems like there is the daily ability to get something called a prime engram to drop out in the world while doing other activities or in the crucible.  This also drops at a decent boost to your light levels allowing you to slowly ratchet that up in so many more ways than you were able to before.

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In my travels last night I also managed to pick up a new copy of Go Figure, this time with Outlaw in stead of Zen Moment…  which for a Pulse Rifle immediately makes it much better given that Zen Moment really doesn’t work that well for burst fired weapons.  It still has High Caliber rounds and High Impact reserves so for all intents and purposes it is the same weapon with a single perk line swapped out.  Unfortunately this dropped from a regular legendary engram and not one of the powerful/prime versions so it dropped at my then adjusted light level of 506.

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The best light level that I can currently high is 527 since I am literally just getting started on the Forsaken grind.  I’ve technically not even finished the storyline, largely because I am not entirely certain where I need to go with that.  This is one of the problems with Forsaken is that you don’t have quite the clear story path as you did with previous content.  Right now I have a milestone that says “hunt barons” but nothing really outlined on how I should go about doing that.  This probably makes the content feel more organic for your average player, but for me… I tend to avoid doing quests like the plague so when I finally buckle down and start doing them… I want a big freaking blinking arrow pointing me in the right direction so I can get them over with and go back to nonsense free play.

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Another thing that I messed around with was Dragon Quest XI last night, and I have a lot of issues with this game on the PC.  The control scheme is not great…  and what I mean by that is that while sure you can navigate mostly with WASD and Left Mouse click to attack…  there are a bunch of other menus that drive on some other combination of keypresses.  The problem with that is that the game has baked in reminders to tell you to press an Xbox controller button to do this or that, but it doesn’t actually update to tell you the equivalent keyboard command.  Basically it is a poor console port, that while functionally struggles at actually doing things in a manner that PC gamers are used to.

Basically I have two options…  grab a controller which isn’t super interesting to me…  or spend a bunch of time remapping buttons.  The other big issue that I have with the game is that it has a god awfully long intro sequence that is unskippable… and the first two times I attempted to get through it something happened which caused the game to crash out meaning that I had to set through the whole mess each time I tried to get into the game proper.  The other big problem is that saving the game is super obtuse and apart from auto saves… requires you to pray at shrines to manually save.  PC players traditionally expect that you can hit Esc to bring up some sort of a menu system… however in this game it brings up a prompt telling you that you are about to exit the game and lose all of your progress.

Ultimately… my suggestion if you are interested at all in Dragon Quest XI is just to get a console version.  This is available on pretty much all of the consoles at this point, so save yourself the frustration of dealing with the poorly thought out PC port and play it on a platform it was actually intended for.

Boy…

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Last night I decided to test out the wireless ethernet thing a little further, this time focusing on the official Sony Playstation Remote Play app, to see if the connection improved its functionality.  In the past it had behaved a lot like Parsec was where it had momentary blips of connectivity, where the sound would drag a bit while the stream was trying to catch up.  In truth it happened an awful lot more than Parsec normally does, generally happening every couple of minutes.  That said the entire time playing the Remote Play app felt very obvious that there was a bit of lag introduced into the system.  For example I could not really stand playing Destiny other than material farming, because I had to lead the shots by a significant margin to try and actually hit anything.  As such I only really played RPGs in this fashion that didn’t require me to do much in the way of fine motor skills.

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With the connection change however it is not really noticeable that I am not sitting at the Playstation 4 upstairs.  Sure I am only able to stream back 720p due to the fact that I don’t have a PS4 Pro…  but apart from that one constraint it felt like I was actually upstairs playing the machine natively.  I spent most of the evening playing Dad of War…  sorry that is all this game will ever be called to me personally.  I will comment a bit about the game itself later, but as far as the gameplay experience over Remote Play I put in roughly three hours and never once had a bobble or a hiccup in the connection or anything I could possibly attribute to slowdown or input lag.  In fact the game felt silky smooth and largely made me forget how I was doing some nonsense in the process of playing it.

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As far as the game itself… it reminds me an awful lot of the way that Horizon Zero Dawn felt in ways that I am not entirely certain if I could explain.  Basically Dad of War is Horizon Zero Dawn if you instead were playing as Rost, and spent all your time running around with young Aloy.  There are so many ways in which Kratos interacts with Atreus,  that remind me of those early interactions between Rost and Aloy.  Sure the core of the games themselves are very different, whereas HZD was a big open worldish exploration game… and thusfar Dad of War seems to be largely following a predetermined path with various objectives adjacent to said path.  The short period of time I have been playing however makes me feel like playing HZD again.

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Even though I generally hate the term Toxic Masculinity, not necessarily for its intended meaning, but more the negative reaction that I tend to have mentally to hearing it…  and translating it to “being male is bad”.  Dad of War is very much a game about Toxic Masculinity.  Kratos wants to be a better “father” than he is capable of being.  The game takes painstaking effort to show you all of the times he has the instinct to embrace his son, but for whatever reason cannot and instead focuses on something Atreus did wrong instead of comforting and assuaging his fears.  He wants his son to grow up “strong” like he is, and it reminds me so much of every time I saw a father trying to relive their own glory days through their kid via sports.  I’m sorta afraid that if I had kids I would feel something similar about all of the geeky things that I did along the way growing up, and wanting to try and force said kids into loving the same things I do.

I have some feelings about how this story is going to play out, but I am going to keep them to myself for now.  I just feel like we are telling the final tale of Kratos, and witnessing the birth of the next figure that the series will focus on.  I have a feeling that the game as a whole will be a very unexpected emotional trip.  Ultimately yesterday I realized that since I am not currently engaged in an MMO that is sapping all of my time…  that I should spent some time catching up on the single player games that I either never attempted to got distracted while playing.  Example I made a significant amount of progress into Assassin’s Creed Origins but got distracted by some other shiny MMO flavored object that crossed my path.  For now I think I am going to spend most of my time playing through Dad of War and after that… probably set my sights on another single player game that I failed to play…  maybe loop back around and finish up AC Origins.

Yoinking Yang

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It is always staggering how much difference a few pieces of gear make in Diablo 3.  I went from being unable to really function… to being able to push Torment X without much issue.  I could potentially go higher but I have not really pushed myself.  As of this morning I did a solo 40 just to verify that I was wrecking things as fast as I thought I was…  and of course upgrade that blood shard capacity.  Last night after a mythic+ in World of Warcraft I dropped back over into Diablo 3 and with a whole lot of Grace’s help started running content to attempt to get drops.  Over the course of numerous rifts and greater rifts I managed to start piecing together the set that I should be using to make the Unhallowed Essence build work.

This is where I am at as of this morning, with everything acquired minus Wraps of Clarity and the Focus ring.  From there I need one of those doodads that adds a slot to a weapon…  and to reroll a bunch of my gear for more optimal stats.  Then of course there is the game of trying to swap out your normal items with better ancient versions.  Regardless however I am functioning so much better than I was and can finally stand on my own two feet again.  I was in this awkward spot for too long where I could survive the higher torments…  but just couldn’t kill anything fast enough.  That all changed once I got a handful of items and started finally being able to keep up with Grace and her Necro pushing machine.  The funny thing is… she STILL doesn’t have the ring she needs to make her set completely work… and I have somehow managed to get almost nothing but ring drops myself.

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Another thing of note that I thought I would talk about this morning is my plans for Fallout 76.  My good friend Shiana pinged me last night about what I was planning for Fallout and also for Anthem.  He knows me too well, in that he didn’t phrase the question as to IF I was playing…  just where I was playing.  As it stands right now I plan on doing both on the PC since that is the more comfortable platform for me personally.  As far as Fallout 76, when they announced that you could run a private server…  I set my mind on trying to acquire one of these.  My hope is that TypeFrag will offer one since I like their group funding model that allows people to chip in if they so choose to the server rental fees.  We use that for the Teamspeak server that we use for recording AggroChat, and it is nice mostly because it means I am not footing the entire bill on my own.

Regardless of who is paying I plan on having a server with as close to a PVE ruleset as the game allows me.  It will be a nice chill carebear haven with as many of the toxic influences filtered out as possible.  Basically I think this game is going to be amazingly fun pending you can gather up the right mindset of players that are willing to work together and build interesting communities.  The nukes will of course exist, but the hope is that we nuke areas of high mob population and not players… and sorta treat it like a raid zone since it will cause interesting stuff to spawn in from what I have read.  If you want a chill place to play Fallout 76 and are cool with a no PVP ruleset, then this oasis may be the place for you.

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.