At this point I don’t know for certain if my character is weeping tears of frustration or joy. Which ever the case I am just really happy that as of today and by the time I get home from work… the Love is in the Air event will be finished. I felt so damned conflicted this year when it came to this event, largely because I don’t even know why I was participating. I really really do not enjoy World of Warcraft holiday events, because they somehow manage to make something that should feel fun an exciting… into an obligation. Then on top of that… I don’t even like the Love Rocket mount. However because it is the rarest mount in the game, and I do not already have one… I feel somehow obligated to try for it every year. I wish I could understand why I do it… and to the extent of pushing aside other games that I would enjoy more just so I can haplessly farm for a chase mount. Sure it only takes a few minutes to do an attempt at the mount… but I felt obligated to run six different level 100 characters through it. Which by the time you check your garrison and shipyard on each, and queue for a dungeon… you are talking about roughly an hour of your night gone… chasing a mount I didn’t even really care that much about.
We talked at length about this phenomena over the weekend on the podcast, and largely why this works… and why it also frustrates us. Tam suggested that it was because it feels like the game is not respecting our time… and that is absolutely part of it. I think for me personally a good deal of my frustration is that this madness is actually working. This game knows my triggers so well, and it feels as though I have no control in the process. There is a certain measure of excitement in the chase, and were this something I could normally farm on my own… it would fall into the same category as my attempts to get rare mounts from raid bosses. However the fact that it is only available for a limited time… triggers the “fear of missing out” that if we don’t become mindless drones we might miss that one opportunity to get something cool. Even when in this case the something cool is not something we actually wanted in the first place. It is just frustrating to see a company working so effectively against my nature and getting me to follow along in their scheme each year in trying for “the thing”. Now granted I know without a doubt that come Halloween I will once again be chasing like mad in trying to get the Headless Horseman mount. At least I can rest comfortable in the knowledge that it “could be worse”. I mean it could be something as heinous as the Rift cash box chase mounts 🙂
Dwarf in the Deep Roads
I don’t have a whole lot to say here, because I didn’t get terribly far into it… however I did manage to start a quest chain leading me into the Deep Roads. The Deep Roads are my happy place in the Dragon Age universe because if it were really possible…. I would absolutely live completely underground. If you venture into any of my Minecraft settlements, you will see a pretty simple structure above ground… that leads to a massive snaking catacombs underneath. I just feel safe underground, and I have loved being down in every cave I have been able to. I still think having a structure that was mostly buried in a mountain would be my ultimate situation. I wonder if some of my reaction of safety to being underground… comes from the fact that I live in a state where the wind comes sweeping down the plains…. and takes out an entire city every now and then. In any case… we also got into a lengthy discussion about the Deep Roads on the podcast…. and I was shocked to find out that pretty much everyone other than me… unanimously hated them. They just seem like a badass concept… here are these roads and warrens deep underground that you have to fight the Dark Spawn which natively live down there. That pretty much sounds amazing… constantly having a fresh flow of Dark Spawn to fight. Then again…. I might not be normal when it comes to combat in video games. The Deep Roads are like the most metal part of Dragon Age, and I am hoping together to get time to venture forth again down there.
For over a year now I have desperately tried to get into Dragon Age Inquisition. The game starts really slow and throws your character in the middle of a conflict that I did not really care for. Be warned that there are going to be a few minor early game spoilers here, but I am going to try really hard not to say anything super spoilery. During Dragon Age II, you are constantly getting vignettes of Varric being in essence tortured and questioned by a figure that is identified as “The Inquisitor”. In Dragon Age Inquisition (and the anime if you had chance to watch it) you are introduced to Cassandra Penteghast…. the same Inquisitor who you learned to kinda hate during Dragon Age II. The thing is… in truth I actually rather like Cassandra, but the initial set up of the game places me squarely on the side of some epic side-eye when interacting with her. Not to mention that my character is apparently being blamed for some catastrophe as a result. Then with a huge amount of narrative whiplash I go from being the pariah and prisoner…. to quite literally the chosen one of Andraste. At no point did I want ANY of this… in past games I have only feigned interest in Andraste to get Leliana to like me. I am generally fairly anti-religion in games… and in this case especially since my preferred method of playing Dragon Age games is to play a Dwarf that believes we all spontaneously came from the stone and will return back there again someday.
Then on top of that… we basically find out that there is a war breaking out between the Mages and the Templar, and I am not terribly fond of either side. The entire game seemed to focus on my least favorite aspects of the Dragon Age world… and somehow got rid of the parts that I loved. I absolutely love the concept of the Grey Wardens. I was all about drinking demon blood and fighting dark spawn, and I would have been completely happy if we just had more games where I fought lots of bad things to save kingdoms. With Dragon Age II…. it took a big detour, but even then I got to fight self righteous asshole red lyrium Templar…. and was mostly okay with it. The thing that carried me through that game were the characters that I got interested in…. but the problem thus far with Dragon Age Inquisition…. were the fact that I simply was not really feeling the characters at all. I like Cassandra just fine, and Dorian and Solas were both growing on me. Varric felt like a caricature of Varric from Dragon Age II…. which bothered me from the start. Leliana changed for the worst, and was not the character that I came to adore…. lost all of the soft spots and became this battle hardened zealot. Blackwall is cool enough but I already had Cassandra to tank so quite literally had zero use for him. The only character I completely and wholeheartedly loved…. was Sera, but that didn’t really feel like enough. Mostly the grouping did not feel like “my team” in the same way as the other Bioware outings did, and more so felt like a bunch of characters that I just happened to get thrown in the same room with.
The Turning Point
As I said at the beginning of my post… this has been a struggle for over a year now. I will sit down… play for a few hours…. not get drawn into the game and then log out once more. With the new laptop I have been in the process of trying to play games that I for one reason or another struggled with. At the top of that list was Dragon Age Inquisition, and last night I finally realized that I was sitting at a pretty major turning point in the story. I had been putting off the assault on the breech, thinking that it might lead me down a path that would ultimately lock me into the “end game” in a same way as attacking the collector ship does in Mass Effect 2. Sure I was only 20-30 hours into the game, but Dragon Age II was really short… so far all I knew the base game here was short as well if you simply steamrolled your way through the story. Last night Dragon Age pulled a “Link to the Past” on me… and bam all of the sudden I saw everything that everyone was talking about this game. Essentially I now view everything that I did up to this point as largely “the tutorial level” and now it feels like the real game is finally beginning. I have to tell you I am really excited to be “into” this game.
The game manages to pull together a sequence of events that not only cements your motivation and why you care about the events of the world…. but also serves to cement your team. I went from feeling this was just a group of people that I was stuck with…. to being a group of MY people. I am also completely bought into the Inquisition as an organization, because after last night I realized that I am the person shaping the fate of this organization. I can make the Inquisition be this brutal force similar to its namesake…. or I can make it into an organization that cares about people and tries to save them in the process. Bioware I am sold…. and I am ready to get started playing this game. What is frustrating about all of this is… Dragon Age: Origins had an AMAZING introduction… or at least it did if you played a Dwarf. By the time I completed that opening sequence I was completely sold on the setting and the characters and ready to go out into the world and carve my niche. Dragon Age II had a much rougher start, but even though it felt more forced and pushed down a single hallway… I eventually reached a point where it felt I was changing the world. Inquisition though… feels like the worst of those two options…. where you have only the most vestigial of control over your own character as you are forced down a path. Thankfully it seems that the skies are clearing…. and I am ready to step forth into the new world.
First off let me start this post by wishing all of you my readers a Happy New Year. During the course of this past year nearly 70,000 of you have visited my blog, and I am still scratching my head as to why. Whatever I am doing, I guess I will keep doing that in the next year. I do have some cool ideas for things to keep me moving forward, but I don’t really want to go into those right now…. mostly because it will involve some programming on my part to make it function. The thing I have learned over the years of blogging and this coming year will make seven… is that I am really really bad at columns. I will start a feature and then after a few weeks to months it peters out. The MMOs Worth Playing feature was one of my favorite so far, but it was also one of the more time consuming. That said in the coming year I would really like to bring it back, and maybe change its focus to be a little big more manageable…. sort of a MMO of the Month Club type thing. Each week during the MWP thing I was trying to log into that game, play it a bit to remember the things I liked about it… take fresh screenshots and get up a post every single Friday. As we got into the pre-Holiday crunch time it failed miserably. Maybe an MMO of the Month will work better because it gives me more time…. though honestly if the AggroChat Game Club is any evidence I will probably just end up waiting until the week before we record the show before attempting to play the game.
This morning the idea is to do my Awards for the year, since we have officially wrapped up a year now. These are not exactly your normal awards and more like the back of a high school year book… most likely to succeed etc. Though from what I understand…. there are a lot of schools who are no longer doing that for sake of potentially damaging students self esteem. More than anything I want to thank all of you for joining me on this continued journey. The last few months of the year were pretty rough on this side of the equation, but you all kept with me and kept supporting me, and for that I am immensely appreciative. Without further rambling… here is the inaugural edition of “Bel’s Game Awards”.
I absolutely did not expect to like this game, and in truth I probably never would have played it were not for the fact that my good friend Grace chose this as her aggrochat game of the month. I expected it to be largely played on a goof, and even went to the extreme of recording my first game play session because I expected it would be a maddening experience for me. The end result however was something I did not expect, I really enjoyed it. I laughed more while playing this game than I have laughed in a long time while playing any game…. maybe since initially playing Sam and Max Hit the Road. What is even more shocking is that I continued on after the initial play through and ended up getting six or seven different endings by the time we had recorded the AggroChat show. There has been a whole side discussion since about whether or not Hatoful Boyfriend is actually representative of Otome and Visual Novels in general…. or if it just lampoons the genre. I think more than anything it opened my eyes to the fact that this sort of “non-action” game can be extremely fun, and would make me at least try some other games. So kinda like WoW is an ice breaker for MMOs… this might be that sort of Icebreaker for Otome.
I remember when I first saw this game… it seemed like this amazing callback to the Super Nintendo era of RPGs where you had such oddball genre bending hits like Mario RPG and Earthbound. The problem is that in application… the game ended up as this soulless hull that simply was not fun to play. This was our very first AggroChat game club game… and none of us really liked it. This was the game that essentially we all unanimously voted that we wanted to play… and was also the game that caused us to change gears and start letting individual members pick a game for us to play, rather than trying to all decided together what the next game we would play might be. The game was frustrating from a technical level, but the level of grind needed to get very far just made the experience simply not enjoyable. The idea of being able to recruit hundreds of potential party members was amazing… until you realized that not a single one of them was interesting at all. The part that ruined it for most people was the fact that the main character, the mayor was so completely unlikable. I think it was Kodra that said that the game would have been salvageable if you could simply leave him at home and go off adventuring without him. The stereotypes were caricatures were humorous for the first fifteen minutes, and then quickly became painful to keep playing.
What can I say about Destiny the Taken King that I have not already said. I had no real hopes for this expansion because for the most part I had abandoned all hope for Destiny before the time the first expansion patch landed. Year one was a grindy mess whose light leveling system left me scratching my head and simply not caring anymore about trying to progress. I believe I managed to get to Light 26 before hitting a wall of resource gathering, that I simply lacked the desire to keep pushing through. In year one engrams in general felt few and far between, and you were constantly having to judge whether or not an item provided enough light to make it worth swapping it in, even if in other ways the item might be superior. Year two fixed a lot of this in the same way that the Diablo 3 2.0 patch just magically fixed that game, or at least made it FEEL better. That is the thing with me and games, the moment to moment game play has to feel good and also feel like I am getting something for my time spent. While I could say that technically there is way more grind in Year 2, it feels like you are at least getting something for your time…. even if it is just weapon and armor parts. I would rather see things drop… and all of those things be crap rather than never seeing a drop… and when you finally do it decodes into a lower level than the face value of the engram. The biggest change however is the fact that the Taken King has a story… and it is actually a cool one. Through both the quest narrative and the item descriptions that can be found on the website for each of the items you pick up… the game has started to tell this epic tale of both the Traveller and the Darkness, and how the two have battled through countless races and star systems since time began. For me, I patched up my game and tried the year 2 experience long before picking up the expansion…. and I highly suggest anyone who has not given it another shot do the same.
Game I Still Can’t Get Into
I love the Dragon Age franchise…. or at least I did. I’ve been a fan since Dragon Age: Origins… and I have beaten at least six different endings of that game. Which as a person who rarely if ever finishes video games… that should tell you something. I even managed to play through Dragon Age 2 a few different times, and largely enjoyed my experience. However when confronted with Dragon Age: Inquisition it feels like this insurmountable wall. Firstly I think the game just looks ugly out of the gate with its overuse of object shine and its strange playdough hair. The other big problem I have is that generally speaking I play roleplaying games on the sofa, where it is nice and comfy… and none of the laptops that I own are capable of playing this game with decent settings, or at least good enough settings to make it look not like shit. Recently I have picked it up for the Playstation 4 over the recent sales and it is my hope to maybe try playing it on the vita. The first statement anyone ever seems to make to me when I talk about my problems with the game… is that I need to leave the hinterlands. I promise I have left the Hinterlands… but the main storyline is just boring to me. It is nothing as awesome as Dragon Age Origins was…. and I think that’s because I just don’t like the Inquisition. I could get 100% behind the Grey Wardens… I believed in their cause and was ready to go into battle for them. I could give a flying fuck about being the Herald of Andraste. I hate this green shit that comes out of my hand… and I hate the feeling that I am constantly fiddling with the magic of the world… and my key goal in life seems to be to close rifts full of annoying demons. I like some of the characters that I interact with, but some of my favorite characters so far are characters you can’t take with you on missions like Scout Harding. My party of choice would be Cassandra, Sera, and Harding…. but instead I tend to go with Cassandra, Sera and Dorian. I wish I knew why this game is just so not enjoyable for me…. but I want to play it… I really do.
Lived Up to the Hype
The game this year that I was the most hyped about has to be Fallout 4, and that hype cycle started from the moment it was officially announced at E3. This game did so many things right, and really it was starting with the way it was announced. They held off to show any information on the game until it was already pretty damned polished, and then they hit it out of the part by saying that it would be in our grubby little hands only a few months later. In the meantime they gave us a pretty fun mobile game to keep us interested…. which I will talk about later. Fallout is one of those franchises that I place up on a pedestal for always giving me exactly what I wanted out of the game. A big open world with lots of little things to keep me interested, and a complete inability to ever truly “finish” the game. There is more content in Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas and now Fallout 4 than I will ever have time to see. Hell in the few days ahead of the launch… I played some more Fallout New Vegas and was still finding things that I had never seen before… and I considered that game pretty damned well trodden. As far as Fallout 4… everything about the game makes me happy… apart from maybe the main storyline. The thing is… I don’t play Fallout games for the story… I play them to go off and inhabit the wasteland and weave my own storyline around me as I go. I thought the voiced protagonist would annoy me… but for the most part I have been able to ignore it. I really like some of the companions this time as well…. namely Piper and Nick. I wish so much that I could adventure together with Piper, Nick and Dogmeat at the same time because I love them all. The biggest moment for me though was when I realized that in this game through the settlement system I could finally make the world a better place. I have a dozen or so different settlements at this point, and I have spent time building on each of them. I feel like I am making things work…. and improving live as I go. As far as the Storyline… I find parts of it frustrating namely that I did not see a good option to broker peace between the three main factions. I would have loved a “Can’t We All Just Get Along” ending option… and maybe it is there but I just have not found it.
Hype That Didn’t Last
If I had to pick a game of the year based on sheer amount of time I played it during this year…. the award would go to Final Fantasy XIV. It has been my constant companion… that is until the last quarter of the year when I started to lose interest. I can’t say I am disappointed in the game, because the content leading up to Heavensward… and the launch content was really amazing. The problem I have had is like after the launch of A Realm Reborn there just doesn’t seem to be that much to do to keep me engaged. I guess in truth the game has always been this way… because I remember us running into the same wall a few months after the launch of 2.0, that ended up leading us to un-subscribe shortly after. Coming back when we did July of 2014 meant we had roughly a year worth of content waiting for us to progress through. This content kept us busy up until the point of the Heavensward launch, with us not actually defeating Bahamut until we did it unsynchronized. With Heavensward we lack that backlog of fun older content to work through, and our casual gameplay style just does not really fit with the Final Fantasy XIV bleeding edge. So we managed to down Bismarck Extreme, Alexander normal, and made some pretty good progress on Ravana Extreme before we petered out and started to lose interest. What is making it extra hard is the fact that there are only two max level dungeons at a time this go around. Previous expansion each content patch came with three new dungeons…. and having to run experts by only alternating between the same two dungeons gets old really really fast. I am sure at some time I will get the bug and go back to playing this as my primary game…. but for now I am just basically only playing the new story and holiday content as it arrives and the rest of the time…. simply not logging in.
Shocked I am Playing
At the beginning of the year, I had quite a bit of fun raiding in World of Warcraft, but as Blackrock Foundry drug on…. and the launch of Heavensward loomed I simply lacked the care to keep playing like I have done so many times. In June I quit playing as the chart at the end of this post shows and focused solely upon Final Fantasy XIV, and I think maybe it is this single minded focus that caused me to burn out of that game so quickly. Blizzcon is a primal force of nature that no one can avoid… and I have to say it got me started down this nostalgia trip that ended with me playing the free version of the game on my sub 20 horde characters on The Scryers server. This ultimately ended up with me resubbing to the game and I have to say I am really enjoying myself. I am playing the game in a much more casual fashion than I am used to, and while I am raiding every single week…. I am doing so with a group that only raids on Sunday nights, and during a time slot when I am normally downstairs watching television anyways. I know there is technically no new content, but what can I say… I am having fun. Playing Horde has breathed new life into the game because it is allowing me to not only play with friends I never really got the chance to play with… but also see the world from a slightly different perspective. No clue how long this will hold out but I think so long as I am playing it and OTHER games at the same time… it might just hold for awhile. I think the key for me not getting burnt out is to allow myself the freedom to play whatever I feel like playing in a given moment and not really forcing myself to keep playing something that feels stale.
Made Me Almost Care About Mobile
As I said above, one of the things that Bethesda did right with the launch of Fallout 4, is that they gave us a fun app to play with in the meantime. Fallout Shelter is essentially Sim Tower or the later Tiny Tower mobile game…. set in a Fallout Vault. This was actually a lot of fun for a few weeks and gave me a reason to play games on my phone. The problem is I eventually got bored with it the same way I seem to get bored with all mobile apps. There were a lot of times I thought that I would keep playing it, were it for the ability to play on my desktop while doing something else. But for a brief period of time I found myself caring about a mobile game, and that deserves some recognition. My lifestyle just doesn’t really support mobile gaming, in that if I am going somewhere… I tend to be the one driving. Then when I am at work… I should be you know… working and not playing games. When I am out shopping… most games simple require too much to get into them and do a few moves before you need to move on to the next area. Then when I am home…. I would far rather be using my laptop, gaming desktop, or one of several different consoles than spending time on a mobile device. The one thing that might change this is the fact that I have started spending some time on my new Kindle Fire before going to sleep. Right now that time is mostly occupied with reading comic books… but I could see eventually playing a game like Fallout Shelter while trying to fall soundly asleep.
Game I Wish I Enjoyed More
If you were to write out every single feature that I would want in an MMO on paper… you would pretty much get the feature set of Rift. That said for whatever reason I have struggled to get into this game since the launch of the first expansion. I will come back and play for a bit but find it far too easy to walk away from. I love Trion, and I love the awesome people that work there. I love some of the awesome folks engaged in that community like Kiwi. All of this said… I just struggle to get into the game itself. I think it is several problems, namely that I just don’t have a large friendly and active community to be part of. I mean I have the House Stalwart guild but it has been dead since the last resurgence several years ago that lead me to go found it. For a long time my hope was Machiavelli’s Cat community, but during Storm Legion the Rift contingency pretty much died, and it lead us to merge into Alea Iacta Est…. who then also seemed to die out. During this awkward period I tried a few other guilds, and never found a home… eventually creating House Stalwart on Faeblight. The big problem that Rift has that WoW does not… is the fact that there is no cross account id system that you can use for communicating with friends regardless of what character they happen to be playing. However with the recent “Glyph ID” that is now showing up in the launcher… I am wondering if they are crafting that infrastructure. I feel like I simply have not put in the necessary legwork to find a new home, because it seems like so much effort. That combined with the fact that finding a workable spec itself is a challenge, has left me in this phase of logging in… playing for a bit and then fading out again. I want to love this game, but it has been a struggle.
Most Emotional Experience
This is a strange one for me… because I’ve technically never played this game. The game itself is more of an experience… a visual novel of sorts… than a true game. Sure there are gameplay elements and mechanics… but those remind me of the video game equivalent of one of those pop up books that has levers and such that allow you to move the characters or animate a specific story element. I watched a let’s play video on this game, and in that I pretty much experienced all of it. The end result evoked some of the strangest emotions in me.. and actually lead me to cry at a few points. I think any creative type can understand the emotions that you go through in the experience, and I know for myself…. who tends to suffer from a fairly unhealthy amount of imposter syndrome… it hit incredibly close to home. I am not sure if it was a positive experience, and for all I know given the timing… it might have been the start of my recent funk. The rollercoaster I went through… was not exactly healthy. That said I feel like I have to give the game credit, because it made me feel things… like deeply feel things. Very few video games can do that, and ultimately I ended up purchasing the game as a thank you for the experience…. even though I doubt I will ever actually install it or play it.
Game of the Year
The only thing I can really give you… is a hearty shrug. I don’t know what my game of the year would be. If you judged it on sheer excitement and the eventual execution… it would probably be Fallout 4. If you judged it based on the amount of time I spent playing it through the course of the year, then it would be Final Fantasy XIV. If you based it on the sheer shock that someone got me to play the game in the first place… then Hatoful Boyfriend. Basically every game on my list deserves its recognition, and for the most part that recognition is positive with the exception of Citizens of Earth. I played a lot of games this year… and I hope to play even more next year. Game of the Year is honestly a silly concept… and just like I can’t really give you a firm answer for “Favorite Movie” or “Favorite Song” I could never tell you my absolute favorite Video Game. My mood plays such of a huge role in what I want to play at a given moment…. and if I want mindless destruction right now Destiny is giving me everything that I could ever want. But as soon as my mood changes… so does my preference in games… and I often times fall back on sheer comfort gaming like whatever MMO I happen to be into. So yeah… all of the games on this list… I mentioned because they were important to me, so they are all my Games of the Year.
This morning I am absolutely stealing an idea from Grace who happened to post something today called “What I’m Playing”. Sunday is traditionally a rough day for me as far as posting goes. One of two things has happened, either I have stayed up way late on Saturday night to finish editing and posting the AggroChat podcast, or I am rushing around Sunday morning to finish it. This ends up making the morning feel like a big hassle either way, as my body thinks I just went through this epic struggle to get our podcast posted. My brain is telling me… isn’t that enough? Do I really have to make a blog post too? At which point I tell my brain to shut the hell up and stop being so whiny, and btw give me a topic to write about while you are at it. So now I am latching onto this week in review post idea like a life raft and just going with that.
Final Fantasy XIV
A subtitle for this week could easily be called “failing to accomplish goals” because there is a lot of that going around. Monday night we made solid attempts on Ravana Extreme, and Wednesday we didn’t quite have the people to pull anything together. Other than that I have honestly been pretty scarce in game. I get like this after finishing a grind to accomplish one of my goals, and for awhile now I had been grinding in so many different ways to gear both the Warrior and the Dragoon. I had all intention of capping Esoterics this week, but as of last night I just have seventy five. I could spend my day grinding to play catch up… but I highly doubt that is going to happen. Hopefully we can return to our normally scheduled Final Fantasy XIV play schedule next week.
I am still very much playing Wildstar, but similarly to Final Fantasy XIV I didn’t really spend much time actually playing it this week. I made a minor dent on Whitevale on Tuesday, but I spent more time talking about Wildstar with friends this week than actually playing it. I am not really sure what was up this week but I was overly tired pretty much every day. We had one horrible night where the storms woke me up and I never could get back to sleep fully, and I think this lack of sleep pretty much pushed the rest of the week out of whack. Each night I felt like I lacked the mental fortitude to concentrate on an MMO, so ultimately just ended up playing something else. I want to continue my climb on the Warrior because I am finding the game more enjoyable than I did at launch, and am actually really looking forward to the free to play drop.
Dragon Age Inquisition
I spent an awful lot of time playing this game over the week, but my overarching goal was less about actually playing and more about figuring out how to play it from my laptop. I maybe obsess about stupid shit sometimes. As you can see from the screenshot I finally left the Hinterlands! I am actually enjoying the game quite a bit now, but for whatever reason I am not finding it nearly as “sticky” as the previous Dragon Age games. In Origin and even in 2 I had these moments where every fiber of my being just wanted to see what happened next. It was like turning the pages of a really good novel, and this game doesn’t have that same feel. It very much feels like I am playing levels in a video game and I find I care less about the story than I have in previous games. That is not to say the game is not enjoyable, because I am absolutely having fun… but it is just a different sort of fun.
I apparently worked the Hellgate London out of my system, but instead it has given me a desire to play Diablo III. For most of the week this has been my go to game, as it has just the right amount of friction for my mental state. I don’t have to think about it much, I can just push buttons and kill things… and that works. In the continued theme of setting myself up for failure, I apparently decided that creating a Season 3 character from scratch was apparently a brilliant idea. Now in order to get any of the Seasonal rewards I need to get a character to 70… before 5 pm PST tonight. This is not a thing that is going to happen since I am just now sitting at 27 as the above screenshot shows the ding. The positive is… I am actually really enjoying playing the Crusader. I figure when Season 4 starts I will make another seasonal character and see what I can make it to with a full three months or so of playtime available.
I curse everyone involved for introducing this game into my life. It is so damned crazy, but I can’t seem to stop myself from playing it. At this point I have now seen six different endings for the game. From what I can tell I have yet to actually scratch the surface, but at least I feel like i have a lot to talk about for the upcoming show. I imagine that I will play it some more and go for a few more endings. The ending that I have not seen is the supposed “bad ending”, which I guess means you have to play the game without much thought taking random birds to do things. At this point I have taken the approach of setting my sights on a specific bird during each play session. I have a few more left to do that with, so that is probably going to be my focus in the sessions between now and the aggrochat show.
Heavensward Mega Episode
For awhile now the AggroChat crew has deliberately put off talking about the events of Final Fantasy XIV Heavensward in an attempt to allow folks to catch up on the content. However this week the gloves are coming off and we are dipping into a full spoiler episode where we hash out the events that have occured since the 2.55 patch show. We trace the steps of our characters from setting foot into Ishgard to the final conflict of the expansion, with as much details as we can think about in between. This is a roughly two hour long show because of the truly large amount of content to go over. We considered chopping this into two halves, but figured we would release it uncut. We talk about our favorite characters, our most emotional moments and what we are looking forward to with future content patches.
This morning is not going how I expected to go in the least. About 3 am a massive storm blew in, and with it thunder, lightning and torrential rains. This of course woke me up, because rain sometimes means bad things. We have some issues with our wooden siding right now, and it is causing two leaks to happen when the rain is particularly vigorous. We have contracted someone to come out and fix all of this… but that won’t happen until sometime in September when their next available slot is. In the meantime each time it rains I either dread the potential for a leak, or like last night have to listen to the constant dripping from the top of our bedroom window. Needless to say I did not exactly get an amazing nights sleep after that all started. As a result I have been moving around this morning extremely sluggish and easily distracted. I set out with the simple mission earlier of trying to find out what my Wizard 101 account name was… and wound up playing for about fifteen minutes. The distractions are real, and plentiful and I am getting a very late start writing my morning post.
Then to make matters worse when I actually sit down to start writing, I find out that apparently WordPress has released its 4.3 patch, and I now have eleven updates waiting on me. Instead of waiting until AFTER I have advertised a post, I decided to go ahead and update everything right then. It is surprising how long twelve updates take when one of them is a new wordpress version, and a major version at that. It is going to be an interesting day I can already tell it. I have a cat on my desk right now stalking me, because she thinks she is hungry and the kitten playing around behind my monitors which always freaks me out a little bit. Thank god for coffee is pretty much all I can say at this point because otherwise I would surrender to the desire to curl up in a ball like my cats…. and join them in sleep. The cats are absolutely not helping the distracted part however, because they are both being adorable. This may or may not be the worst blog post I have written in years.
I guess in the grand scheme of things I should have known this morning would end up like this, because last night was equally spastic. Instead of gaming, I spent a lot of time “trying to game remotely”. I have this dream that someday I will be able to play games on my less than stellar laptop downstairs, from the gaming machine upstairs. I know at this point you are preparing to interrupt me with “but steam in home streaming!” but quell that for the moment. There are a huge number of games that I play that do not run, and ultimately don’t work right through steam in home streaming. I know… I’ve tried. One of them for example is Dragon Age: Inquisition that is locked behind the layer of bullshit that is EA Origin. So instead last night I started trying a different route, namely Splashtop. Some time ago I watched a video from Linus Tech Tips about creating a “Ghetto Shield” to play games from a phone/controller combination. This is all fine and good… but I don’t want to play games from a tablet or mobile interface. I hate touch screen interfaces with a passion, and all I really want is to be able to treat my laptop as a thin client for gaming purposes. The dream is simple, because in theory it would allow me to stop caring about getting a “gaming laptop” and instead just get a decent office type laptop and stream through my gaming machine. The problem has always been that there is enough lag that it ultimately ends up pissing me off.
Last night I managed to get Dragon Age Inquisition largely working, but I ran into two issues. I was running fraps on both my gaming desktop upstairs and my laptop so I could see the FPS of the two systems. My gaming machine was running DA:I around 60 fps just fine… Splashtop on the other hand was running in the 15 to 20 fps range which pretty much wrecked any playability. To make matters worse, for whatever reason whenever I attempted to move “mmo style” while holding down the right mouse button to turn… the mouse input lagged to painful levels making me pretty much abandon the mouse and start keyboard turning. I kept trying this over the course of roughly two hours, and even tried to figure out a way to get it running smoothly through Steam Streaming without much luck either. The reason why I was sent down this path yesterday is the updates to Windows 10 streaming from an Xbox One console. That is cool enough, but for the love of god… will someone make it work between two windows machines without issue. The last attempt was to try and figure out how to install the Splashtop gamepad driver, so I might try that again tonight. Everything I have read online is that the mouse support in Splashtop is just bad. I guess they are emulating the input instead of simply passing it through to the other machine…. which seems insane… until you realize that the software was designed to allow people to connect from tablets to desktops… and not necessarily desktops to desktops. I will say however it already out performs any remote desktop tool that I have played in the past. I booted up World of Warcraft as a litmus test and it ran flawlessly. There was some strangeness with the mouse cursor updating slowly, but the movement was nice and smooth.
I am not entirely certain if it was my recent foray into Hellgate London, or my recent railing on click to move as a control scheme… but for whatever reason I have had an undeniable craving to play some Diablo 3. Last night ultimately turned into a night of updating drivers and things, and in the process I installed a new Nvidia driver. One of the things I do periodically is flip through what it is suggesting as my “optimized setting”. Some of the suggestions are pure crap, because out of laziness they really have not tested any of the settings. However every now and then you get one that is really well optimized, and that seemed to be the case with the configuration it was suggesting for Diablo 3. My newest video card is capable of doing the spiffy trick where it renders the game at 4k and then down-samples it back to 1080p. Nvidia Experience ultimately suggested this mode for Diablo 3 and I have to say playing like that is absolutely gorgeous. I am not sure if you can actually see the difference in the screenshot but in game it just feels smoother than traditional anti-aliasing usually does. On a whim I decided to create a Season 3 character, even though Season 4 is only a couple of weeks away. Not sure what I am hoping to accomplish because I doubt there is any way in hell I will get a character to 70 before the season ends.
I made it to level six and the blacksmith apprentice quest before ultimately deciding I needed to log for the night. I could have likely stayed up for a few more hours playing, but I was hoping to prevent the level of groggy that is already well underway this morning. Either I am getting better at click to move, or I am getting lazy… because in truth I didn’t really do that much clicking last night. I mostly ran around with my left button held down allowing the game to auto attack most of the mobs, occasionally throwing in a shield slam. I am still not a huge fan of the control scheme, and the announcement yesterday of Marvel Heroes 2016 introducing game pad control was welcome news. That said I am maybe okay with playing it every now and then. I have been feeling terribly disconnected and Diablo is the perfect kind of soloing but still having people to talk to type gaming experience. I booted up Wildstar and attempted to play for an hour or so last night, but ultimately felt horribly lost in the expanse that is Whitevale. Diablo 3 provided me tight and constrained corridors without much thinking, and that seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Tonight however I will have to put on my productive adult cap, as it is raid night and we are likely going to be doing more tries on Ravana.
It is funny how a conversation can set someone down a path. During the Saturday night recording of AggroChat 70, we got onto the topic of Ashgar playing Mass Effect again, which not surprisingly lead to some discussions of Dragon Age as well. For whatever reason I have struggled to play Dragon Age Inquisition, and in truth I had the same issue getting started in Dragon Age 2. It was a good year and a half after the release of that game before I finally managed to play my way through it, and I was beginning to wonder if the same would be true for Inquisition. At face value the game seems like the perfect mix of Dragon Age storytelling with Skyrim-esc open world exploration. The problem is the mixture together seems to be a confusing mess for me personally. Even though every single person I have talked to says to leave the Hinterlands… I struggle bringing myself to do this. The Elder Scrolls player in me wants to wander about seeing what all I can find in this nook or that cranny. Which means I have spent twelve hours so far playing the game and have not really accomplished much. Yesterday however I started trying to force myself to knock things off my quest list rather than wandering around and seemingly gathering up an endless number of them.
Not surprisingly as you can see above I am playing a Dwarven Two-Handed Warrior. That pretty much means I will always be grouped with Cassandra, because of the two tanky options I have encountered she is preferable to Blackwall. I don’t mind the character of Blackwall at all, in fact I kinda like it… but compared to Cassandra… well there just is no comparison. For most of last night I ended up playing with Vivienne as my mage, and quite frankly… I think I am switching back to Solas. Vivi apparently disapproves of my whole wanting to help the Mages thing, which is something that happens while I am playing Dragon Age. Normally I am more than happy to see Mages slaughtered by the dozens… but this game mythos actually makes them into characters I can sympathize with. It feels like they have simply drawn an unlucky lot in life, and are oppressed for it. Those Tevinter however… I am still more than happy to slaughter them by the handfuls. I guess ultimately last night I turned some sort of a corner and managed to get into the game just enough to make me want to keep playing it. Previously it was a pretty if not slightly awkwardly controlling Skyrim clone… but last night it finally became a Dragon Age game for me.
Herald of Andraste
I did not mention my favorite party member yet I guess. You can see in the background Sera, the awesome elvish archer you pick up in Orlais. She is sassy, irreverent… randomly shakes her ass at Vivi… and is having absolutely none of my shit. Grouping with her reminds me of the many nights Tarantella has hung out with us on voice chat, and I mean that in the best possible way. I’ve reached the point finally where I just want to play more of the game, and I had to pull myself away from the screen last night in the middle of a big action sequence because otherwise I would be non-functional this morning. The only negative is that the next few nights are largely spoken for. Tonight I have my original Final Fantasy XIV raid team, and Wednesday I have a second Static… with Tuesday sandwiched in between which I have been attempting to devote to some Wildstar play. My fear is that if I wait too long I will lose the momentum that I have going right now. I am not sure why this game in particular has been such a struggle for me to get into. I think part of it honestly has been that generally speaking I play single player games on my laptop downstairs. Dragon Age Inquisition will functionally run on said laptop, but it looks like shit and suffers from the shiny hair syndrome that occurs when you attempt to play the game on crappy hardware.
Instead I need the firepower of my full gaming machine upstairs to do the game justice. I am just not used to playing 50 to 100 hour games on my desktop. I guess in the grand scheme of things I am going to have to get used to it, because Witcher 3 suffers from pretty much the same issue. My laptop while more gaming oriented than a lot of them, is just dated at this point. It will run most of the MMOs I want to play decently, but the GTX 660m card in it just cannot handle the PS4/Xbox One era of gaming. At some point I will upgrade it and everything will be fine, but for as little as I have actually used my laptop of late… I just can’t see that as a sensible expense. I have a fairly checkered past when it comes to laptops. I’ve owned several “gaming” laptops over the years and each one dies a fairly spectacular death after a year or two of use. As such I pretty much have resigned myself to picking up cheap second hand laptops, because each time we have spent full price on one… it has lasted just long enough to get out of warranty before suffering some catastrophic and largely un-repairable error. The laptop I have now has been a trooper and in spite of it having a dated video card runs most everything that I want to play. It will run FFXIV in DX11 at around 40 fps which has made up the bulk of my recent game time.
I am honestly not really sure why it has taken me this long to boot up Dragon Age Inquisition, and why it required the AggroChat show to remind me of its existence. I think part of it is the fact that it is on Origin, a client that unlike Steam I never actually have running. When I have a game on steam, I see it sitting there in the list mocking me… so I end up booting it up periodically. Origin however is in a completely different client that only really has Bioware games for me. I have been going through this down cycle lately where I am largely keeping to myself. Inquisition would have been the perfect game for this sort of activity, but out of sight out of mind. Honestly Origin works perfectly fine from what I can see, but as a testament to how little I use it… I had not actually added a single person to my friends list until last night when I imported my PSN network. I only did this because at some point we are going to try both some Mass Effect 3 multiplayer and some Dragon Age Inquisition Multiplayer. In spite of Origin doing a fair job, it still annoys me that I have to use it at all. Steam for me is a value add, because it gives me quick access to all of the games I want to play and represents a generally cheap and ubiquitous portal for purchasing them. Origin however falls in the same category as UPlay… as that piece of software that I am required to use but constantly frustrated by.
Last night I actually took some time and poked around the Origin store, and I came to the stark realization that honestly… the only EA games that I care about are the Bioware games. For the most part everything else is either a franchise I have grown out of like Battlefield, or one I have never quite gotten into like Sims… or a string of sports games that I have never had any interest in. EA largely produces games that I don’t care about, and I guess that is why having my beloved Bioware games blockaded behind the service feels so wrong. The funny thing about it is that the supposed core reason behind EA pulling out of Steam, was that they did not like having to discount their games on a regular basis. It seems that EA is having to discount their games even further than Steam generally did to get people to nibble. I noticed last night that Titanfall, the game that was supposed to herald in a new era of Xbox One supremacy… is down to $10 for the Deluxe digital collectors edition that once sold for $100. The only real positive however is that Origin also has cloud sync, so when I installed Mass Effect 3 it synchronized all of my save game data from the Bioware servers and it remembered everything that I had unlocked. All of this Origin ranting aside… I expect my solo gaming to continue on for a bit longer as I get some more Dragon Age Inquistion gameplay in. In truth I have reached a good pausing point in Final Fantasy XIV as I have essentially finished getting gear on my Warrior from Alex normal (minus the chest piece) and have upgraded every slot on my Dragoon to 180, giving me two viable characters for endgame shenanigans.
The is something strange about knowing you can’t play something… that makes you want to play it. Right now this is happening for me with Final Fantasy XIV, especially since I knew that more than likely I would not really be able to sink my teeth into it until I got back from Pax South. It sounds from the early reports that World of Darkness is absolutely not the cakewalk that Syrcus Tower has come to be. Then again maybe at one point Syrcus wasn’t either… considering I have never actually been around when one of the 24 man dungeons was “new”. Both Labyrinth of the Ancients and Syrcus Tower were aging content when we came back to the game. So it will be interesting to see how it works out.
Pax is going to pretty much eat all my time starting tomorrow with the planning and packing. So I am not likely going to get to experience much of this patch until I come back Sunday/Monday. In the Pax front I have some exciting but scary news. I guess I totally have a media appointment with a game company. It started with a conversation over twitter and lead to a discussion over email and an appointment. It should be awesome, but it is a new experience for me so hopefully I won’t bore or annoy the devs too much with my questions. I might end up doing more of these but right now this is the only one I actually have scheduled. Its strange that my first convention, is in a way a working one since I will be covering the convention in part for a bigger site than mine.
When Dragon Age: Inquisition first landed it did so during a fairly bad time for me. We were starting raiding in Final Fantasy XIV and I was just then coming back to World of Warcraft for the impending Warlords of Draenor launch. To make matters worse I suffered some pretty crippling technical issues surrounding this game. Every six to ten seconds there would be a hitch in the gameplay, like a record skipping. There were numerous reports of this, and even more fixes but none of them seem to work quite right for me. A few of them made things better but this hitch happened on even the lowest possible settings. Finally I found the solution myself that involved playing the game in fullscreen windowed. However at that point I was just flat out pissed at the game itself and really wanted nothing to do with it. I listened as friends raved about the game but ultimately I would put it away for the time being.
With the force downtime in Final Fantasy XIV I used my day yesterday to restart the game fresh. I feel like this “better” mindset has made so much of the game more enjoyable. The first time I was trying to play the traditional “Belghast” character, aka a Human Sword and Shield Warrior. The problem with that is that once again the first companion you meet up with… is a far better tank than you will ever be for awhile. I wanted to be able to group with Cassandra, so on the second play through I opted to go for a Dwarven Two Handed Weapon Warrior. So far the choice has been a good one, and I am enjoying the game much better. The worst part about restarting is having to play through that section where it flips you into tactical mode. Everything about that mode feels horrible, and it took me a bit to figure out how to flip back to the normal combat. The first quality of life change I made was rebinding “search” from V to R making it significantly easier to hit while moving.
Faffing the Hinterlands
In spite of everything my friends have told me… I faffed about heavily in the Hinterlands. When planted down there with a blazing inquisition eyeball icon showing me the way I needed to go… I chose to go the opposite direction. This has always served me well in Elder Scrolls games and overall I think it was the right choice for me this time as well. It gave me time to get used to combat and explore the world a bit before being locked into more serious dialog again. I am very much a man of action, and the introduction to all games generally makes me deeply unhappy. I keep saying to myself “why won’t it just let me play the game!”. Dragon Age Inquisition was a fairly action oriented introduction, but still there were moments where I was more than ready to move past the talking about things phase. So I puttered around exploring things, picking up quests and figuring things out before the game actually intended me to learn things.
During this time I was thrown directly into the fact that the mages and templars were at war with themselves… and everyone that happened across their paths… including towns folk, the chantry, and the occasional farmer. It was also during this time that I started to embrace the notion that maybe I was in fact the chosen one. I think I did enough objectives to get to 8 or 9 power, closing several rifts before eventually meandering my way to my objective. Ultimately I did end up leaving the Hinterlands before getting entirely mired in them… but I did it in my own fashion without the feel of rushing through them. The game feels better to me now, or maybe I am just in the right frame of mind to be playing it. I’ve added several more companions to my crusade, including the very amazing Sera. So far the only one I don’t really like is Vivienne, but that really isn’t terribly shocking. What does amuse me is how much I actually like Solas, but then again I tend to get along far better with apostates than circle mages. I picked a poor time to start playing, given that I am just about to lose a weekend to Pax, but hopefully I have made it far enough into the game to have the storyline cemented so I can pick it up again later.
So as you know over the last several days I have been struggling with Dragon Age Inquisition. When I initially booted up the game the stuttering was so jarring that it would sound like a record skipping and freeze movement for a fraction of a section… just enough to bring you out of the game entirely mentally. Nvidia released and updated driver and this helped the stutter but it was still there, and still just as frustrating to try and play the game with. Since then I have tried what felt like every possible combination of settings, none of which removing the problem. That is except for one apparently. Last night I finally landed on the solution to the problem and the stutter is gone. For some reason my machine prefers to run games in windowed borderless, this has always been the answer to a performance boost. I thought I had tried this initially but apparently not… because the moment I shifted things into windowed borderless the hitching went completely away.
Now I feel like I can finally play the game in peace and actually experience it. Unfortunately last night I just was not in the mood for this sort of game and moved on to working on gearing my warrior in World of Warcraft. That said with the stutter gone the game is a much more enjoyable experience. There are times the game is absolutely beautiful to behold… I still feel like I need to spend some time tweaking the settings because I had fiddled with almost everything trying to get the game to function… and now I have a few strange choices picked here and there. The interface feels a bit cludgy for melee, so it is going to be one of the things that I have to get used to as I play the game. So far I am not a huge fan of my companions, and even Varrack a character I really enjoyed in Dragon Age 2 is getting on my nerves. I think maybe I just need to put this game aside and let the frustration from the back and forth with settings fade before I attempt to play it again.
Gearing for Heroics
Last night I had two goals… one of which fell by the wayside. I figured there was no real point in attempting the silver proving again until I actually had the gear level to matter. So as a result I crawled through the wowhead item listings and made an effort to complete every single quest in Nagrand that had even the slimmest chance of dropping something that would improve my ilevel. Additionally I poured the rare spawn and treasure drops to find anything that might give me a little boost. I also spent some time pouring over the auction house, which was as I would expect completely insanely overpriced for what was actually available. After hours of painstakingly trying to incrementally improve my gear score I was sitting at 609. One stinking point away from heroics.
My friend Damai asked me to do a weapon enchant for him, we ended up partied as he started pulling together a group to try and help Rylacus get some gear. A bit later I found myself tanking Skyreach since that had the lowest ilevel requirements, and the only one we were able to queue with Ry. It turns out there are two quartermasters in the Ashran Town Hall, each of which sell 615 trinkets, and both of which bumped me up just enough to get over the 610 heroic gear requirement. Running Skyreach however also allowed me to start my Legendary ring quest chain, rewarding me a 640 ilevel tanky ring that was almost twice as good as my previous best item. Now it is just down to me getting through my silver proving, so that I can be ready to tank heroics for the guild. I don’t have a lot of fear because I made it through seven of eight rounds last time, and it was really only because I got tunnel vision and stopped paying attention to my own health that I actually failed the first time. I have gotten quite a bit more gear since that point… so hopefully tonight I can knock that out first thing.
This morning the WoW Anniversary content officially began, but if I am remembering correctly… the actual launch date was November 23rd. I remember being frustrated that it was right before the Thanksgiving Holiday… which would mean I would be tied up with family and such. A decade ago I had so many houses to visit on thanksgiving that it lent itself to being a a crazy all day occasion. We would start early in the morning and travel throughout the day, and then repeating the process to a lesser extent on Saturday. Its funny how things change in a decade, because now we only have a single house to go to, as everything is happening around the noon meal. When I logged in this morning I had a Molten Corgi pet waiting on me in my mailbox. I find it odd how Corgis have become such a video gaming mascot. The game Rift has at least half a dozen different Corgi pets in game for example.
The primary reason why I have been pushing to gear up so quickly… is that this coming Tuesday we are planning to run the Molten Core LFR as a guild, or as close to “as a guild” as we can realistically get for a 40 man. The LFR itself will have an ilevel requirement of 615 and completing the event will reward you a helm appropriate for your main spec so for plate it would be something resembling this one. Completing the event also earns you a Core Hound mount, which looks really cool. Then there are a few items that have a chance of dropping like a doodad that embues any weapon with the Flames of Ragnaros effect… at least cosmetically. I guess with this expansion they have made it so you can transmog over enchantment effects, which is cool because some enchants look way better than others. Basically I want to be able to participate in all of the Reindeer games… and Damai was gracious enough to move it to Tuesday after telling him that Monday was the FFXIV raid night.
This is absolutely the hardest part of any blog post this month, is to come up with something new that I have not already talked about on the preceding 20 days. As we near the end of the month I am pretty much going to be grasping at straws here, but I feel committed to carry out the experiment. Since this morning I am talking about World of Warcraft, I want to say how happy I am to have the Gladiator’s Resolve talent. Essentially for those who do not know what it does… it replaces battle stance for protection warriors, giving them a brand new gladiator stance. When in that stance you lose the innate survival and threat generation benefits of defensive stance… but gain a 20% damage increase. Essentially this makes you sword and board dps, and from what I have seen in my own tests I deal a TON of damage.
This is essentially what I have wanted the entire time I have played MMOs… to be able to effectively dps while using a sword and shield. I like the iconic look of the sword and board warrior, and while two handers are cool… they never really fit my personal style. I used to get frustrated that games would always make shields being entirely about defense… when in real life shields have always been extremely effective weapons. Now that I have this option… I actually want to try pvp in Ashran. In the past warrior pvp for me at least felt impotent, because I couldn’t be the badass heavily armored tank that I was in the dungeons. This one talent I think changes that. I am still extremely sturdy, and still have access to all of my protection trickery… but this time around I can simply deal some damage with my shield as well as my sword. So this morning I am thankful for someone finally giving me this talent, it makes me extremely happy.
This morning I am feeling relatively miserable. In truth I have felt extremely lousy since mid way through last week. The hacking and coughing and clearing of my throat just wears me out, and as a result of all of it my lungs are extremely pissed off at me. That said since the weather outside is brutal with lows in the teens each morning… I am perfectly content to stay bundled up inside. Yesterday it was my hope that I would be playing Dragon Age Inquisition, but even with a driver update there are still some issues. The issue I am having is that the game will quite literally be running at a locked 60 frames per second… then all the sudden it will freeze for a moment causing everything to stutter including the audio… then resume back at 60 frames per second as though nothing happened. The game is still playable, but extremely annoying since this seems to happy about once a minute.
The most frustrating thing is that it doesn’t seem to be settings related. I have dialed down the game to extremely low settings and the hitching still occurs. This means that essentially I am not able to join in any reindeer games for the time being. My hope is that an early patch will either come out for the game, or another updated Nvidia driver that resolves the issue. If it is not fixed by this weekend however I am likely to just such it up and deal with the pauses. The game itself, what little I have seen of it… seems really cool. Overall it feels far more like Dragon Age 2 than it does Dragon Age: Origins… which itself is a mixed bag. I wish my character had been silent, because it doesn’t really feel like my character at all… when there is a voice talking instead of me. That is just one of my personal quirks however, but I figure most people prefer to have a voice acted character. Ultimately when I play games like this it is all about the big damned hero fantasy, and saving the kingdom… not the narrative of the actual characters.
First off I have to say that I love this screenshot. It does not give away any details about the quest chains in Talador other than the fact that Blackhand is involved. However if you have completed the quest chains in the zone you know exactly what this screenshot is from. In any case I am happy that I managed to catch it at just the right moment. Yesterday I was contemplating just completely skipping the quests in Talador to move forward into Spires of Arak. My friend Rylacus begged me not to do this, because there was a moment in the game that I just had to see. Thankfully I followed his advice and man… that zone was freaking amazing. Granted there was a lot of faffing about in that zone unrelated to anything… but the four chapters were all excellent. Terran Gregory and team have don an amazing job with the cinematics in this expansion… and I am constantly floored at how nice everything looks. When one of these scenes cuts in… it manages to make me forget this is a decade old game.
Now I have another dilemma to decide. Once again I am at the breakpoint of a new zone, as last night I managed to ding 98. I have all of the precursors leading into Nagrand, or I could go start the Spires of Arak. In either case it will ding me, but Nagrand will actually give me gear that I need to get into normals and heroics. That said… so far each of the zones has provided important bits of the puzzle letting me understand more of the expansion as a whole. The Spires however are the zone that everyone seems to think drags a bit… and just in the look of it, it reminds me so much of Blades Edge mountains… which had massive pacing problems thanks to the horrible terrain. Part of me wants to jump straight to Nagrand, since it was my favorite zone in Burning Crusade. However the other part of me realizes that if I don’t do Spires of Arak while it is relevant… I will never likely go back and do it because the terrain looks frustrating. At this point I am just not sure which direction I am going to go… but in any case I am only two levels away from 100.
An Excellent Moment
I’ve talked at length about just how phenomenal the Final Fantasy XIV community is, but when I have concrete examples I still feel like I need to share them. Monday before our 8 man raids, I was attempting to cap out my poetics earned for the week, and as such decided to run a completely random expert roulette. Now I queued as DPS, and was shocked at just how fast the queue actually managed to go. We got into the instances and everyone said hello as is the FFXIV custom, and then some actual chatter started up. Things seemed to be going smoothly but within a few minutes the healer asked us if we were experiencing any lag. I was not but as the run progressed I started to see small bits of it with my actions. However I have totally seen times where even among our little circle of friends… one of us was experiencing some crushing lag.. and everyone else was just fine. During a pull the healer disconnected and the ninja and I managed to hold out just long enough after the tank died to finish off the pack.
Now were this any other online game, when the healer got back… they would have been chewed out by the players and called horrible for having a “bad” internet connection. I’ve seen that play out many times in the past in several different games. However in Final Fantasy XIV the healer came back, apologized and the general consensus of comments from the group was “stuff happens” and “thanks for trying”. As the run progressed the were several moments where the healer lagged out of disconnected, often times causing the tank to die. In every single time the tank took it with grace and thanks the healer for fighting through the issues so we could keep going. Upon completing the run everyone thanked the healer for valiantly “sticking it out” and I am certain that I was not the only person to give her my commendations. She sounded thoroughly frustrated by the events, but every player in the instance was supportive of her situation. What other game have you ever seen where that happens?
This morning I am thankful for an awesome boss. As I write this… I am feeling absolutely horrible, and have sent my boss an email saying that I would not be in today. That I would be taking the day and resting. I’ve had bosses in the past that would have had a problem with this, bosses that the only thing that mattered was that I was sitting at my desk during the hours of 8 to 5. I am very fortunate to have a boss that is more family than administration. Prior to this current environment it had been a very long time since I had anything resembling a work family. Maybe it was the fact that my first environment straight out of college was so close knit, but it essentially spoiled me for other places I worked. While I still feel close to a lot of the people I have worked with over the years… in part it was either through shared interests or shared struggle in horrible situations. This team that I am part of now… I feel like I belong to something bigger than myself and it is entirely thanks to the support of our boss.
Previously we were a group of self starters, and functioned well as independent islands more or less left along by every boss we had been under. Our current boss was a member of that team, and saw the disconnectedness of the group as a whole as something of a challenge. Over the last several years he has worked to bring us all closer together, and as such make us mesh more tightly. I know that I can go to any one of my team members with a problem and they will do everything in their power to fix it, and they know the same is true for me. Its the stupid little things like bringing a cake to our staff meeting on the months we have a birthday, or going out to see a movie together as an after hours team building activity. All of which by themselves are silly or minor… but adding up to be an awesome environment to work in. So I am thankful I have such a great environment to call my work home.
Our Final Fantasy XIV group has ended up taking about a month long break following the launch of the 2.4 patch. For various reasons we have not rallied the troops on Tuesday nights, and as such we have opted to move our group content night. Tuesday has turned out to be just as bad a day to do anything serious as it was in every other MMO. For some reason it seems that Final Fantasy XIV patches more often than not late Monday night leading into Tuesday morning. This means along with the normal weekly reset we are often times dealing with marginally unstable servers. Since Monday tends to be a night where most folks focus on getting the last poetics needed to cap for the week, we figured it was also a relatively low volume raid night. So going forward we are going to try and pull together 8 man group content Monday nights with whomever we can muster at the time.
Often times who we have available will dictate what we can do. Last night we started off with Shiva Hard Mode, since most of us had not actually completed it. I have to say the fight was rather enjoyable, and it was kinda like a strange mishmash of titan and ifrit. It took us a couple of tries to see all the mechanics and then we straight stomped her. Granted this is just a hard mode and we are used to mostly attempting extremes. After that we went back and did Garuda Extreme again, because there was at least one member of the party who had not completed it. Traditionally we would be working on Titan Extreme, but it was good to go back and see that we could in fact repeat our victory. Granted it had been well over a month since we had last done the fight, and as such all of us were a bit rusty. However after a few wipes we nailed it like we actually knew what we were doing. Hopefully by next week everyone will have unlocked Ultros so we can take that on as a group, and this should have keyed most everyone for Garuda… so we can make attempts on Titan Extreme again.
To Skip or Not to Skip
After our group broke apart in Final Fantasy XIV I opted to poke my head into World of Warcraft and see what mayhem I could cause. I apparently was significantly closer to 96 than I realized, because upon entering the game and beginning work again on the Gorgrond content… I dinged within doing a few of the bonus areas. I still have a handful of bonus content areas to complete, but now this gives me a dilemma. I am at an ideal point to transition to the new zone that unlocked at 96… Spires of Arak. The problem being I have yet to do anything at all in Talador other than set up my garrison outpost. It looks like a really cool zone… but I am wondering if doing it will basically screw me for getting into normal mode dungeons. The problem that I ran into with Pandaria is that I leveled significantly quicker than the content would normally allow… and this means that I ended up needing to skip entire zones in the process. Normally I would keep plugging on, but I would really like to be available for at least a normal mode tank when I reach 100. The gear level that I came into the expansion with is just not going to hold long enough for me to do meaningful content.
It was my experience in Pandaria that if you could get into Townlong Steppes and Dreadwastes at the level cap to enter them… you could end up getting enough gear upgrades from questing that you were more than ready to set foot into normals… and quite possibly you were within an upgrade or two away from being able to do heroics. I guess in theory I could keep plugging away at Talador and simply finish all the content in the game before worrying about doing dungeons. Ultimately I do want to finish the content, because this expansion actually has a storyline that I care about for once. I guess my only desire to rush to 100 is so that I can get in on the initial wave of folks needing to run dungeons. While tanking for strangers was not as bad of an experience as I had expected… I feel like once everyone hits cap that experience will degrade significantly. Ultimately I will need to make a decision and move forward. Right now I am leaning heavily towards just skipping Talador entirely for the moment and diving into the Spire of Arak for maximum upgrade potential.
A Tale of Three Games
At midnight of last night another game launched that will be fighting for my attention, or significantly earlier than midnight if you know how to use a VPN to cause yourself to show up as another region. This once again is proof positive that region lockouts are dumb, because they are so painfully easy to circumvent if you really want to. I however did not care enough to do this, and my Monday night was already pretty full so I just waited until 11pm my time to get in and play the game. Dragon Age: Inquisition is a game with so many hopes wrapped up in it, that can either be booned or bashed within the first few hours of game play. Will this game return to Dragon Age: Origin style game play, or will it be more akin to Dragon Age 2. Quite honestly I don’t have an answer for you yet because I just have not seen enough of the game.
I am however already questioning my choices, and thinking that maybe I should not have gone sword and board tanky. The game unfortunately gives you a tank for your very first character, and while I have not even completely the introduction… I am already having flashbacks of trying to make two tanks work to keep Alistair in my party. The description mentions having proficiency with a two hander as well, so hopefully one of us can equip one of those and be done with it. Quite honestly the game felt a little sluggish, but I think maybe I had something installing in the background when I made my attempt to play it. For whatever reason it seemed to run silky smooth.. and then absolutely thrash the hard drive every so often without much rhyme or reason as to why. My hope was that it was just a background process thing… and not the game doing something dumb like trying to dial into the dragon age servers periodically. The game took a significant time to load… which I do think we can probably blame on busy servers as everyone was trying to launch the client at exactly midnight. Hopefully as the week goes on, I will have more to report on it… other than it exists.
No matter how smoothly this Thanksgiving goes… it was going to be a rough one regardless. This is going to be the first dinner without my grandmother, who has been such a fixed point and an anchor in our family. She represents that last in a long line of degrading family events that pretty much means all of the normality that I grew up with as far as family and holidays goes is gone. When my grandmother on my fathers side passed away, those meals just stopped in any semblance of order. We would say that we would try and get together, but ultimately we each made a quick visit in private to my grandfather… and that reason for maybe passing each other in the drive way even left when he passed away. Similarly with my wife’s family… when he step dad passed away the era of having big family meals went away… and folks opted to break apart into much smaller units. The last bastion of the big family get together was my Grandmother on my mothers side… and this past year she passed away. Predictably holiday plans have been non functional.
Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, because it is one of the last pure ones. Sure the day after thanksgiving is this black mass to consumerism… but thanksgiving day itself has remained relatively pristine. It was a day about getting together and having a meal with your family, and that mission was just simple enough to stay pretty true to its original goal. There is something about sharing a meal with friends and family that is just special to me… and for years I tried to convince my family to turn Christmas into Thanksgiving 2.0… where we just got together and shared conversation and food… and forgot the presents. My grandmothers house was this focal point of all of the family activity. She was such a strong matriarch and she is as much a reason for why I am the person I am… as anyone in my life is. I spent the majority of my childhood at her house, with her as my companion and friend. So this Thanksgiving was always going to be a hard one, no matter what happened.
The interesting thing that I have noted as we have gone through a series of recent funerals is how well my generation seems to get along with one another. When my grandmother passed away, I stayed long after most of the folks had left just talking to my cousins. My generation just does not fit into our family as a whole… we went out into the world and for the most part all did something with our lives beyond the boundaries of the small town my family hails from. The other day my wife was lamenting how strange Thanksgiving would be without my grandmother on facebook, and at this one of my cousins announced that she was intending to invite us to have the meal with them. Apparently she had gone through the same malaise and similarly they had a few deaths in their family that pretty much ended up with the holiday decimated. So as such here we go trying to start our own new traditions. Hopefully Thanksgiving will go smoothly, but in any case it will be better than spending it without family.