Four Screenshots

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Last night was another fairly anxiety fraught night, and I simply didn’t feel capable of tanking a World of Warcraft progression raid.  I feel bad about it, but by the time I got home…  my mind was spent racing through all of the possible things that could fail today.  This is it.. the day we launch the new website and I am terrified.  In the grand scheme of things I know that we will deal with everything that comes down the pipe and triage issues as they arise.  However on the eve of the event I can’t stop thinking about all of the things that could go catastrophically wrong.  I need this to launch and I need it to go successful… because honestly I need a few days to simply fall apart.  I have been functionally working sick for over two weeks because I knew things had to get done.  Granted I have not been running a fever, so I didn’t think I was likely contagious… but that didn’t necessarily stop me from feeling downright miserable.  One thing I did do last night was get my little Random Shots project out on GitHub since Scopique mentioned I should do this thing.  Since I don’t really have a whole lot that I feel like talking about this morning, I am going to try one out of these random screenshot posts and see what happens.

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I have this weird relationship with Rift.  I love it or at least I really want to love it… but I have issues playing it.  I talked a little bit about my issues with combat over on Syp’s blog yesterday in the comment section, but another huge issue I have is that I simply cannot bring myself to purge things from my vault.  I love their housing system… but I also cannot seem to be bothered to actually spend time building a proper house.  However I have this long term desire to do so…  and because of that my vault is horrible.  With Nightmare Tide they introduced the Minion system and for months I logged in dutifully every day hoping to get housing caches with the thought of putting all of this cool stuff to work in building a really great dimension.  However what actually happened is it filled up both my vault and inventory with a bunch of items that I never could quite bring myself to part with.  I could bring myself to part with the deluge of crafting materials that my minions kept bringing back, but those housing items were just too rare feeling.  Sure most of them go on the auction house for a few silver….  but that doesn’t actually seem to alleviate the problem.  What I wish is that Rift had a housing system that worked similar to Wildstar in that you chuck items in a sort of housing inventory that you can then place items from.  I would happy wander the world collecting housing items, knowing that one day I might actually sit down and devote the hours to building a proper home.

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I had honestly forgotten about the events that happened during this screenshot.  Back in 2014 the Halloween event included the ability to transform into one of the various signature characters in the game.  There were a bunch of different clones running around in Uldah, and I wound up as Nanamo Ul Namo.  It was a lot of fun but largely was just an occasion to take funny photos… like there is one floating around of like nine Minfilia’s on a bench sitting beside one Merlwyb who is looking exasperated.   That is one of the really cool and frustrating things about Final Fantasy XIV is that each holiday event is unique and will never be repeated.  They sometimes put the rewards you could have earned on the cash shop for a pretty cheap price… but each year and each holiday offers something truly unique.  Over the years I have missed several, and there will always be a small bit of me that feels a slightly sense of loss over not getting to see whatever content that was.

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This is one of those screenshots where I know what it is and what it is showing… but can’t be terribly certain of the sequence of events.  Essentially I know that this is a beta test build of Elder Scrolls Online, during one of the most public test weekends and not one of the Psijic Order/Team Akatosh weekends.  The screenshot is somewhere in the middle of Stonefalls, because I spent so much time in Stonefalls.  By the time the game launched I was pretty sick of both the Daggerfall Covenant starter area and the Ebonheart Pact starter area.  The reason why I know it is a public beta client, is because there is no obnoxious watermark that says my email address over and over across the screen.  I still have plenty of alpha screenshots floating around that are watermarked to hell and back and this is obviously not one of them.  I also know this is not a live screenshot… in part because of the time stamp on the image and also because I have yet to make it to Ebonheart Pact on my main character.  The funny part about this shot is that I had been in alpha/beta testing on the game roughly a full year when we reached this point back in February of 2014.  I was an extremely dutiful tester, repeatedly reporting bugs every time I played.  To the best of my knowledge I never missed a weekend testing event, even if it simply meant that I popped in for a few hours somewhere during it.  It just seems shocking that in April we will be coming up on the third anniversary of the Elder Scrolls Online.

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This is a screenshot from one of the early alpha builds of Skysaga, a minecraftian sort of voxel building game.  The game had a really awesome style to it, in everything other than the character models… and their weird floating arms and legs that were detached from the torso bothered me.  I realize that was part style decision and part that they simply didn’t want to have to properly animate arms and legs.  I mean if it worked for Rayman… why not for a construction/exploration game?  I cannot really tell you why I checked out of this game, but I did… I think in part because it was the sort of experience that handheld you through the process of building by continually throwing new crafting achievements in front of you.  Then each time a new build was released… we would get wiped back to square one.  I am sure the game has changed massively given that this is a screenshot from February of 2015 and I am still actively getting emails talking about alpha builds of the game.  When I just checked the website they list that they are in Alpha 9… and this screenshot is from what I can only term as a 0 alpha build given the version number.  If you are still in alpha after two years…  something tells me you are using the nomenclature completely wrong.  If you are selling a product… you aren’t in alpha.  You are just in a buggy release mode.

Tunneling Addiction

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I think we need to talk.  I have a significant problem on my hands… and that problem is Minecraft.  What I mean by that is that I have been obsessing about the game since Christmas day, and wound up staying up until 1:30 last night.  I apparently was digging more tunnels that never seem to end… and just when they appear that they might… I find a way to start a new one.  I’ve said before how my bases in Minecraft tend to be more a complex of interconnected tunnels and underground areas than really anything big and above ground…  and in truth that is happening again in a big way.  The project I happened to be obsessed with last night, however was my treasure room.

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When I play Minecraft, it is less that I am willfully building structures and more like discovering them in the existing land.  I almost always start out exactly the same way… which is burrowing into the side of a nice large hill with the purpose of creating a temporary shelter to survive that first night.  However what inevitably happens is that I then use that cave as a sort of starting point for burrowing deep into the hillside and connecting up a bunch of disconnected areas.  Then it is almost as though I am uncovering a lost civilization… and connecting up pieces to create a former empire or something.  Which lead to the thought that I really needed a proper warehouse/treasure room… and where better to put it than deep under the ocean.  I have a dock of sorts and off of it is a large building hovering out over the water… which then leads to my obsession of the night which is a large stairwell shaft that leads down into the water and underground beneath the ocean finally ending up in a room with tons of chests for storage…. and then apparently I dug a shaft back up to create a skylight of sorts.

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There was then a point last night when I realized that I had no real way of getting back out of my tunnel system other than jumping from one of the many bridges I have built.  As a result I constructed this entrance point of sorts that leads out onto the mainland…  and being me I then apparently started off a whole new tunnel complex to the left of the above screenshot.  Now my previous tunnels had quickly ended up in the ocean… where I built some sort of an outpost.  One of which literally is a staircase that goes deep down into the ocean and all the way down to bedrock.  That was a bit of a challenge to build and I ultimately flipped on creative mode since I had to be underwater for large chunks of time during its construction.  It is cool however because as you are going down the staircase I have windows that allow you to see out into the ocean and it is really cool when the sun is coming up and the water is swarming with squid.

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This new tunnel project however that has consumed most of today… is apparently going off in a direction where there is nothing but land and mountains.  So as a result each time the tunnel has broken free of the mountain briefly I have created a little outpost or at least an exit into whatever area happens to be surrounding it.  There are roughly five of these… and another that I discovered yet another ravine while tunneling, so I took time to build a ladder all the way down to its floor.  The problem with my tunneling obsession is that I have zero clue where exactly I am going or if I will ever reach a point where I consider it “done”.  This is ultimately the challenge I face each time I boot back up Minecraft, is that I get caught up in a project that I never quite know when it is going to let go of me.  However since it had literally been a few years since I last built anything in the game… I am guessing I had a lot of tunneling pent up inside of me.

Christmas Basebuilding

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My friend Grace calls today Super Xmas…  or the day that you get to chill out and rest after the manic running around that happens around attempting to make everyone happy on Christmas and Christmas Eve.  This absolutely used to be the case for me, but over the last few years Christmas has become a much more low key affair.  I’ve talked a bit about the concept of an anchor household, but for me most of those are now gone.  Instead we have to sort of make our own new traditions, and one of those recently has consisted of going out to dinner on Christmas Eve with my folks, and then coming back to our house and doing gifts together.  For years there used to be a strict schedule of… my folks and mothers side of the family on Christmas Eve, and my Dads side of the Family early early Christmas morning…  then my wife’s family for Christmas lunch and eventually another gathering Christmas evening.  Over the years deaths in the family have taken the corner stone of each of those gatherings to where there really isn’t a whole lot going on during the holidays on either of our families.

There were of course a few options…  one of which was the household that introduced me to the term “titty milk” a few years back and we opted out of that one.  Instead for the most part we just chilled out at home and enjoyed the fact that it was freaking 70 degrees outside for Christmas.  In the afternoon between thunderstorms we went out for a walk, which is something I need to start doing every day in an attempt to get myself prepared for all of the walking that is going to happen at Pax South.  As far as gaming goes… I spent a lot of time not actually gaming yesterday but more in an extended state of transitioning between games… as I checked twitter and surfed the web.  I did play a significant amount of the Sparrow Racing League, but largely playing remotely through the laptop.  I am getting surprisingly good at dealing with the input lag that comes from playing PS4 via PC, so much so that it actually takes a bit to get adjusted to using the real console again.  I am now in this place where I need two items to hit 400 light…  Ghost and Heavy.  I’ve since gotten two Exotic Heavy Engrams… but both of them decoded to 399 light instead of bumping on up to 400.  This seems like a massive bug because every engram seems to decode at 399 rather than giving me what is usually a level bump.  As far as the ghost goes… I tried some more forge only to have it bug out on me with the waves sitting at 100% for 10 mins and then eventually failing out without actually spawning the boss.

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Another thing that happened yesterday is that I fell into a giant Minecraft shaped hole as we hung out and watched some shows on demand.  It has been several years since I had legitimately played Minecraft and as a result I went back to pure vanilla for the moment at least while I get my bearings.  Before long I was back into my standard operating procedure which is digging a big hole and then eventually erecting some large structures.  I decided to have my main base out over the open water with a big tunnel leading from what is ultimately turning into my quarry.  I used the seed “BelChillingChristmas2016” and wound up with a pretty cool spawn.  My original cave opened into a giant chasm underground and I have been building the infrastructure needed to explore it more properly.  I wound up digging down into the rock and laying a bunch of ladders as I went which ultimately allowed me to create a shaft straight down to the chasm floor.  I have a hut of sorts down at ground level that lets me get down there in relative safety and at least see what monsters happen to be around.

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I plan on building a dock of sorts under my base that should allow me to launch boats easily for exploring new areas, and I also plan on building another big land bridge/tunnel to the other nearby coast giving me access to new areas.  Right now a lot of my time has been spent simply quarrying cobblestone and hollowing out the mountain side for that purpose.  There is a bunch of gold in the chasm, but I don’t really have much need for it yet.  I have not seen any of the more useful materials like Diamond or Red Stone so at some point I am probably going to have to do the whole dig down to bedrock thing and start some branch mining.  At this very moment however I am trying to expand my base of operations and make more safe space for me to travel in.  Minecraft is one of those games that triggers my base building instinct to the extreme, and I am ultimately falling back into the familiar patterns I do when I always play this game.  In truth I should be playing Diablo 2 since we plan on recording the game of the month show this coming week… but for now I am indulging myself in a little bit of structured madness.

Regularly Playing: July/August Edition

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I just realized the other day that it had been a long while since I had done one of my regularly playing posts.  The general idea is to true up my sidebar list of games and bring it into alignment with the games that I am actually playing on a fairly regular basis.  Some of these might not be every day occurrences but they represent the regular rotation of games you are likely to see me talking about.  At some point however I fell off the wagon and went the entire month of July without any form of an update.  As a result I am doing this to cover both July and August and get me up to date.

To Those Remaining

World of Warcraft

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I am legitimately playing World of Warcraft more actively than I have in years.  More than likely this is the most seriously I have played since before the launch of Cataclysm.  I am really enjoying the game, and the changes to the various specs… and even enjoying the Legion launch event more.  Over the last few days I have been using this event as a bit of a springboard to help level up some of my sub 100 characters because every two events you participate in seems to be roughly a levels worth of experience, even in the 90s.  So I took my Shadowpriest last night for example from 92 to 94 in two full rounds of the event.  As far as the rest of the game there is still a ton of stuff I want to do, that mostly centers around running older content and collecting appearances.  To say I am looking forward to the Legion Launch is a bit of an understatement.

Final Fantasy XIV

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Final Fantasy XIV on the other hand has fallen a little bit by the wayside.  It is that game that I am logging into only to raid… which ironically is traditionally my stance with World of Warcraft.  I am loving the Monday night raid team, and we are now starting to do more serious content.  I still have little to no drive however to level or gear, at least until the content we are doing requires it.  That might be a thing that happens soon because we have pretty much defeated all of the “easy” end game content and are now starting down the path of the more difficult stuff.  However it feels amazing to have “the band back together” and doing raids together  as a team.

Rift

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At the very least right now I am logging in every day to participate in the Starfall Prophecy launch event, which is namely collecting prophecies that I can then later turn in for rewards.  The pre-order bonus means that we will get access to some awesome stuff like the artifact finding mount, and I want to make sure I don’t miss out on any of that.  Otherwise I need to really hunt for a group of players that are more active.  I don’t want to disband the House Stalwart guild or anything, but I might consider moving Belghast off to another guild, because I would like to see Comet of Ahnket before the expansion lands since the lore seems like it will give me a headstart into understanding what is going on.  Additionally I want to spend a sleepy afternoon at some point doing more Intrepid Adventures.  Those things are just absolutely fun as hell and it is a style of “LFR” that I wish more games would look into implementing.

To The Returning and New

Diablo 3

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As stated when I originally removed it from the list, I knew that it would be a limited time thing.  With the beginning of this month came the launch of Season 7 of Diablo 3, and a return of several of us to actively playing again.  This time around we do not have nearly the throng of players that we did with season six, but myself, Grace and Thalen are all fairly active.  This time feels a little cheap though because we all seemed to opted for the fastest possible clearing class…  or at least our view on that.  The Demon Hunter is a powerhouse and one that you can get up and running insanely quickly.  By the time we dinged 70 we were already pushing content hard and fast, and after roughly a weeks time I am now clearing greater rifts in the 50s like they are a cakewalk.  The only question now is just how serious I am going to be on trying to get that extra stash slot.  Right now there is so much going on, that I am afraid Diablo 3 is going to fall by the wayside.

Pokemon Go

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Pokemon Go is something that did not even exist on my radar when I did the last “Recently Playing” and has been something that has dominated my life since.  I have gone through the stages of grief with this game, and have reached a point where I continue to play it without really understanding why.  I wrote the other day about some of my frustrations, and they are very real.  However still… anytime I leave the house I check for nearby Pokemon each time I stop and get out of the car.  As the heat starts to chill the hell out… and we no longer have 100 degree days I will probably start resuming my evening pokestrolls.  However when it is 100 degrees at 9pm at night… it is just too damned hot to go out roaming too far.  I hope this game gets some much needed changes, because the ones thusfar feel like they are taking it in the wrong direction.  Niantic Labs still does not seem to understand that they made a MMO.

No Man’s Sky

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This one is seriously brand new… but I have a feeling that over the coming weeks it is going to be a new obsession for me.  I called it Interstellar Skyrim, and it invokes the same sort of feelings in me.  The problem being… all of this is pending you can actually get it running on your machine.  There are lots of problems ahead of this title before it reaches serious mass adoption, and I hope that in the coming weeks they can push through them.  To say it has performance issues is the understatement of the century right now, and I am questioning my original plan to get this on the PC.  That said I am committed at this point and still very much enjoying the experience.

To Those Parting

Destiny

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I have so much love for Destiny, but for whatever reason I have drifted away from it in the last few weeks.  In both the month of July and August I have not really played much, so I am temporarily removing it from the list.  I know without a doubt in Mid-September when Rise of Iron hits, that I will be back and actively playing it again.  In the meantime however I feel like I have gotten it out of my system for the moment.  However if my friend Grace suddenly decides to start playing again, I will likely be right back there with guns a blazing.  I think a huge part of it is that I really have not been spending all that much time up in my office where my Playstation 4 is, and instead hanging out on the sofa playing on my laptop.  Much like when I remove Diablo 3 from the list… this is absolutely going to change in the coming months and I am sure I will have yet another resurgence.

ArcheAge

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I feel like ArcheAge is a casualty of simply too much other stuff going on right now.  At the beginning of July I had a bit of a renaissance with this game and managed to push through to fourty six… and then the content seemed to dry up a bit.  The quests are still there, but they seem to be generally less plentiful, and the progress I was making felt a bit bogged down.  As a result this sort of just fell by the wayside, and I am sure at some point I will reignite my fires for this game because at the end of the day I still very much like it.  The biggest thing that came from this last journey is that I realized that PVP isn’t as big of a hurdle as I was expecting.  I have technically spent the last dozen or so levels in pvp enabled areas… and really did not run into a single issue.  Flagged players avoided me, and I avoided them and we continued questing along happily.  At some point I am sure I will return, but for the time being I am removing it from my list of “active” games.

No Man’s Sky Thoughts

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This morning was an absolutely glorious morning, in part because of a massive cold front that blew through over night.  It is suddenly 70 degrees outside with a lovely breeze, rather than the usual over 100 degree madness that has been happening for weeks.  As a result we decided to get up and walk over to daylight donuts for breakfast and then take it into the backyard and eat it on the patio.  After the generally shit week that I had, I needed this little bit of respite to maybe start to recover.  It is not that anything really went wrong… just the stress of entirely too much maximum level adulting.  The week was one with several adulting raid bosses, and the progress made on them were mixed.  However I am now happy to chill out on the sofa with a cat precariously balanced between my arms trying to find a way to snuggle while I type.  So far it is working but I have a feeling at some point she will wander off because my hands are engaged in something other than serious petting action.  Other than all of this… yesterday a game was released that I had been waiting anxiously for since it was first announced at E3 during the Sony PS4 reveal show, or at least I think that was when I first saw it.  No Man’s Sky promised to be the space exploration game for me.  Elite Dangerous looks awesome, but it is entirely too fiddly for my tastes.  I don’t want to have to care about learning to pilot a ship through the vast expanses of space, or learning how to dogfight when there is no “up”.  I just want a Star Trek away mission simulator that lets me wander around the cosmos and land on interesting new planets to explore.  No Man’s Sky seems to be exactly that, but before I get into the good parts I need to talk about the bad.

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Lots of folks are having trouble playing this game on the PC now that it has been released.  I am not sure what happened during the process of the launch but the “minimum” listed specs seem to have been thrown completely out the window.  I know Tamrielo has already returned his copy through steam because on his pretty hoss machine it simply would not give him more than 10 fps.  First lets go over the minimum specs that were released for the game.

  • OS: Windows 7/8.1/10 (64-bit versions)
  • Processor: Intel Core i3
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: nVidia GTX 480, AMD Radeon 7870
  • Storage: 10 GB available space

I’ve played it on two of my machines… first on my Laptop

  • OS:  Windows 10 64-bit
  • Processor: 4th Gen Intel Core i7
  • Memory:  16 GB RAM
  • Graphics:  nVidia GTX 960m

On this machine I had to bump it down to 720p/medium to get stable framerates in the range of 30 fps, with the occasional dip into 15 territory.  However nVidia experience claims that this machine does not meet the minimum requirements to play the game, whereas instead every single category above technically outstrips what the suggested minimums are.

My upstairs gaming machine has the following specs…

  • OS:  Windows 10 64-bit
  • Processor:  AMD fx-6300 3.5 ghz
  • Memory:  16 GB RAM
  • Graphics:  nVidia GTX 980

As one would expect the beefier graphics card means that I am getting significantly better performance, but not massively so.  I am running the game at 1080p/medium and I get severe dips from the 60fps to 30fps and it is extremely erratic.  What this feels like to me… is a game that was rushed to make last minute changes and is extremely poorly optimized for the PC.  From the sound of it… everyone that chose to get the PS4 copy seems to be just happily playing away.  Those of us on the PC are trying to find that precarious line where the performance to pretty balance is reasonable.  The biggest confusion point that I am seeing thought is having a big badass system doesn’t necessarily make a difference.  It is almost totally random who can and cannot run this game.  As a result I highly suggest you purchase the game through steam, that way if for whatever reason it does not work for you… you can return it to get a full refund.  I believe GOG does the same thing, but I have never actually returned a game there so I am not sure how fast or easy that process is.  Essentially this is definitely a “buyer beware” title… and if you simply want to play it without much fussing then I suggest you check out the PlayStation 4 copy.

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Now that all of that is out of the way…. the game is really pretty and feels like you are exploring alien worlds.  It has this feeling of minecraft, starbound and elite all throw together in the a mixer and some weird hybrid came out of the process.  The key thing that stood in the way of me playing Elite or Star Citizen… is that my player fantasy has nothing to do with flying a ship.  I could give a shit about actually flying anything… and would be perfectly happy just taking “taxis” between planets.  What I want is the exploration of new and interesting places, and that is the fantasy that NMS hones in on.  There are going to be folks that complain that this title is entirely too “walking sim” for them, but the couple of planets have all been filled with rich and interesting environments for me to explore.  Right now my biggest problem is the lack of inventory, and lack of understanding how to increase said inventory.  There is just so much I don’t know how to do, and so many items I pick up that I don’t have a clue what they are even for.  What is the most interesting to me is the fact that when you encounter an alien race, you don’t know how to communicate.  You learn language through finding these knowledge stones, and each of them teaches you a single word in another language.  Now I have yet to see what actually happens when you know some words… because I absolutely lost faction with a race by patting them on the head.

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The coolest moment so far has to be when I finally repaired my ship, and decided to lift off of the planet and out into space.  I watched as the horizon got darker and darker until all of the sudden I broke through the atmosphere and could see the stars around me.  Similarly awesome was the moment when I realized that landing on this planet… I had to be super careful about my angle of entry.  If you come in too straight you absolutely start to burn up in the atmosphere damaging your shields in the process.  So that mean’t I had to skim along carefully descending slowly enough to avoid taking damage, but that also meant that this was no means a quick process.  There are consequences of pushing off planet, and I burned through all of my fuel on the first planet using my ship to explore.  Each time you thrust off the surface it takes resources, ones that you cannot easily replenish without significant time spent exploring… which in itself costs resources because the environments are usually hostile and stress your life support systems to where they need recharging as well.  There however is a central loop that I find enjoyable of exploring and gathering and exploring and gathering.  In fact last night I absolutely lost two hours of time playing this game.  Not that I was aware that I spent time… but I thought I had maybe spent fifteen minutes playing, until I looked up and realized that two hours had passed.  So if the issues of the launch can get ironed out, I have a feeling that this is going to go down as one of those Minecraft like experiences that just keeps building upon itself.

So final advice is… pick it up definitely. However if you have a Playstation 4, you might lean towards that for your purchase.  Otherwise definitely purchase it through a provider that is going to allow you to return the game on PC if for whatever reason it does not like your machine.

How to Survive 2 Impressions

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Sandbox/Mission Hybrid

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Roughly a month ago a friend of mine hooked me up with a copy of How to Survive 2, because she knew I was a fan of the whole zombie apocalypse genre and it was a game she was enjoying.  I had all of these plans to write up a proper impressions piece, but got sidetracked by all things The Division.  This game was a whole lot of the reason why I survived the lead up to the launch of that title, because it gave me something fresh to piddle around with.  The basics of the game are that you are a survivor in a world long after everything went to shit thanks to the zombie outbreak.  Since I did not play the first title, I feel like there is probably some background story there that I am missing.  What I do know however is that this title is set in the coastal region of Louisiana.  There are no real recognizable landmarks however, but instead the world simply borrows a swampy feeling Tileset.  The game has both single player and multiplayer game modes, but I have largely spent my time playing single player.

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Within moments of starting a new game you are introduced to the character of Kovac, a man that at first you only know as a voice coming through some sort of a speaker system.  He serves as your guide as he attempts to teach you the basics of surviving in this world.  The game itself is divided into two basic chunks, the large open world area that allows you to freely roam and explore, and very tight and controlled missions with specific objectives.  The missions themselves are repeatable and you can crank up the difficulty to give you better rewards and experience.  One thing of note, and why I am doing an impressions piece is that the game is in early access, and there are a lot of things that are simply not in the game yet.  Much of the tutorial that walks the players through how the world works is simply missing, so I had to rely on my friend and what I could google to figure out a few things.

Level Your Camp

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One of the big things that I was missing was how one actually levels up.  The game has two parallel systems that are designed to level up together, that is your “camp” that you are building in the open world and your character itself.  Both of these have levels associated with them that are purchased through the spending of experience gained through doing activities.  The fastest way to gain this experience for me at least, seemed to be to repeat one of the early missions with the difficulty slider cranked up as far as I was allowed to.  The reason the whole camp leveling thing was a bit confusing at first, was that the character level is locked to the camp level.  So in order to level up your character you have to first level the camp, and you will continue to stair step the two progressions from that point on.  In addition to raw level however there are numerous perks that you can unlock… some of which are absolutely must haves like the ability to open lock picks.  Others are improve the efficiency of using weapons or items, and I assume are also really important once you get a good idea for how you want to build out your character.

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The thing I have noticed is that the difficulty of encounters ramps up pretty quickly, especially in the open world.  For quite a while all I encountered were the generic slow zombies, however once I got to around level three or four the game started to throw in those “track star” zombies that have become popular in the more modern and edgy zombie films.  Around level five I encountered this games version of the boomer… the fat bloated corpse that explodes when you get it low on health.  I am sure as the levels continue to ramp up I will keep encountering other mixes of bad guys each one with their own way of dealing with it.  The only real problem is that in the bit I have been playing my only ranged option so far is a crafted bow.  I am wondering when exactly I will encounter guns, because while I have found a small bit of ammunition.. I have yet to find anything to use it with.

Fallout-Esc

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There is a certain nostalgic feeling to playing this game that I have a hard time really putting into words.  In many ways the game reminds me of the original Fallout games, in that much of your interaction is happening in smaller closed maps that are tightly designed around a single mission.  There is a big of fog of war going on as well as you explore because you can only actually see a small section of the screen at a time.  This is magnified as you go into buildings because there is a forced zoom that happens allowing you to see finer detail inside.  This also makes it much easier for a zombie to sneak up on you and there have been a few moments especially on the night missions where I genuinely jumped when something lumbered out of a corner that I had not been looking yet.  Wandering a cityscape with only your flashlight to see with…  is unexpectedly tense given that this is a top down isometric game.  I definitely had moments of trying really hard to bait everything out of buildings before actually going in to explore them for the fear of getting overrun especially on higher difficulties.

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The game is very much not finished, but what is there was really enjoyable to play and helped to get me through those Division withdrawals.  I would really like to play this game with friends because I think it would be extremely awesome to explore larger cities together.  The game is targeting PC, PS4, and Xbox One, and I could absolutely see this being an enjoyable console co-op experience because the movement feels like it would translate well to a twin-stick controller setup.  The big thing to remember about this game is that it comes with the same early access concerns as always.  The game is not finished, but they seem to be updating pretty regularly.  They have a beta branch that has more frequent updates, but also likely is in a less polished state… and then the normal branch is largely stable.  I had quite a bit of fun playing the game, and I intend to pick it back up again.  It is the perfect thing to pop into do a mission, and then exit feeling like you accomplished something or at least moved the experience bar forward.  While going through all of my recent home renovations there were many occasions where I simply did not have the time to get into something terribly detailed.  Instead I booted up How To Survive 2, and poked around for a bit and got my quick gaming fix before returning to the fray.  I liked it and look forward to seeing how this evolves.  At some point I feel like I really need to poke my head into the original game since this one doesn’t really provide much backstory.

Week In Gaming 9/27/2015

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Week of Playstation

This week was very much a week of me waiting on something to happen on my PC while pivoted to the side and playing the PlayStation 4 instead.  The strangest thing has happened and I am not sure exactly when it did.  For years I was a diehard Keyboard and Mouse gamer… and if you suggested that I play a shooter with a controller I would give you a dirty look at best… and at worst give you a thirty minute rant about why that is a sloppy control mechanism.  The thing is…  shooters now have a significant amount of aim assist regardless of what platform you happen to be playing them on.  Sure you can get closer to pixel perfect aiming with a keyboard and mouse… but I am finding for extended gaming sessions a controller just feels more comfortable.  Destiny was essentially the game that forced me to learn how to play with a controller, and now…  I am finding myself replaying some games that I played exclusively on the PC on my PS4.  Over the week I picked up the Borderlands “Handsome Collection” because it was silly cheap on PSN, and I have to say… I am finding the game more enjoyable over there.  While I won’t necessarily say I have abandoned the keyboard and mouse…  I am finding myself equally comfortable with a controller and it seems so strange to be typing those words.

Destiny

Exotic Weapon FTW!

This week the game that I spent the most hours playing was without a doubt Destiny.  I am not sure why but the game feels fresh and new, and all of the frustrations I had over gearing for light are just gone.  Instead light has become this number based on the average attack power and or defense of your items, and seeing it climb is awesome…  but at the same time not something oppressively holding me back from doing interesting things.  I now think of light much more like a traditional gear score system in MMOs.  There is some content gated on that number, but it doesn’t feel like something that is extremely grindy to get.  I happened to luck out this week and Hawkmoon this seasons exotic hand cannon was available on Xur.  I had enough coins to buy it and bam I am now rocking a really awesome weapon, which only serves to improve my experience.  I’ve heard that you can send blue engrams to low level characters as a more efficient way of farming Strange Coins, and I might end up doing that as I pretty much depleted my entire stash on this one item.

Super Hammer Brothers!
Super Hammer Brothers!

Other than that I am slowly working my way through all of the story content that I have not played since launch.  It feels strange to be progressing in three different storylines at essentially the same time, doing whichever happens to suit me at the moment.  The big thing I am trying to work towards right now is I really need the dreadnought patrol zone opened up because I keep getting those as daily quests.  I am not sure how far into the story that happens but I keep working on creeping that storyline forward in the hopes that the next one will unlock the patrol zone.  Other than that I unlocked Sunbreaker and am completing most of my content as that, in the hopes of leveling it quickly.  There is something satisfying Fist of Havoc, but I have to say super fire hammer brothers is also pretty awesome as well.  You can whittle down objectives super quickly while throwing those hammers.  I’ve taken Taken bosses down to half health during my “hammer time” but the only problem is it essentially leaves you out in the open and vulnerable.  So I end up having to run for cover as soon as I’ve spent all of my energy.  Needless to say I am having a lot of fun with Destiny and probably going to continue playing it over the coming weeks.

Creativerse

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I’ve blogged about this game already at length this week, but I have to say I am still really liking it.  I am also digging that the company is from McKinney Texas which isn’t terribly far from me.  Not sure if I can rig this but it would be kinda awesome to go down and meet that team at some point.  I am hoping that they end up doing Pax South this year, because the game has so much potential.  I called it “Pretty Minecraft” but really that is selling the game short by a large amount.  I will say that it has pretty much killed my desire to play Minecraft at all from this point out.  I get what people say about the mods, but in reality I never modded Minecraft that much other than adding in quality of life things like a mini-map.  Regardless of how I modified the game it just felt like I was playing the same thing over and over with varrying differences.  This game however feels fresh and interesting because the world itself is something that I don’t know the formula behind.  I talked about this a bit the other day, but I think part of it is the fact that I have no real resources to rely on yet.  I can’t go on a wiki and find out that obsidian spawns between these two coordinates or if I need an item for a recipe I have to find it the old fashioned brute force way of exploration.  If you are in the mood for a building and exploration fix I highly suggest you check it out.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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Oh Captain My Captain

Last night during and after the podcast I finished up Alderaan on my Smuggler.  In the time it has taken me to get this far on my Smuggler, I found out that Tam has leveled like three characters from 1 to 50.  How is he doing it?  Well he is doing ONLY the class storyline, and I think maybe he has made a convert out of me.  I shot through Alderaan last night only working on my class storyline and gained three levels in the process.  Mostly at this point I just want to see the class storyline on several new classes before Fallen Empire comes along and changes a good deal of it.  I think the rest of the day I am going to likely work on my Smuggler and see just how close to the end I can manage to get.  My hope is that even after Fallen Empire they come up with a way to speed characters to the post 50 content.  I need to circle back around and do the Shadows of Revan content on my Jedi Knight, but honestly I am having so much fun with my Sawbones.  This is still such a great game, if you just treat it like a subscription.  The free to play options are complete and total bullshit, and feel like the most punitive way to play a game I have seen period.  If you can stomach the fact that you have to pay a subscription to really enjoy this game…  then it seems like a really enjoyable experience still.

 

 

A Better Minecraft

Ash is Awesome

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I have a really huge wishlist on steam, in part because it is a nice way of tracking all of those games that I see every now and then that interest me.  Steam will remind me through their UI when they go on sale, and sometimes this is extremely handy.  However occasionally it has unintended consequences, like for example…  during Pax Prime my friend Ashgar somehow acquired a copy of the sandbox building game Creativerse.  The other night he handed me a key for it, and over the last few days I have been playing a significant amount of it.  I remember looking at the game and thinking “Pretty Minecraft” and honestly…  after playing a lot of it that title still largely applies.  Minecraft is a charming game, but it is also a fairly primative game.  The magic of Minecraft comes from the fact that it has been so easy to extend and create new types of experiences out of.  So in the meantime there have been lots of games that have come out providing a much more aesthetically pleasing experience.  Until recently I would have crowned SkySaga the king of this new breed of “pretty minecraft” games, but after playing Creativerse… I think maybe it is more fitting the title.

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When you enter the game you are asked to create a name for your character and choose a simple boy or girl avatar.  The game loses some points with me right out of the gate because these avatars really are not customized in any fashion.  From there you can set up your own private world or join someone elses, and similar to a minecraft server you can toggle different variables.  My world for example has PVP disabled, and I set a password…  but for the life of me I cannot seem to remember what password I set which will probably come back to bite me in the ass at a later date.  You are plunked into this pretty world with a power glove that allows you to pull blocks up from the ground, and a stick that serves as your default weapon.  The first thing I noticed was how generally difficult combat is because I died quite a bit trying to sort out which types of creatures I could kill and which I could not.  The other item that I finally noticed I had in my inventory allowed me to change my spawn point and plunk down a teleporter allowing me to pop around the world freely and teleport back to my spawn point later.

The Struggle is Enjoyable

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With Minecraft, from almost the first moment I set foot in game… I had resources that I could draw on.  There are wikis of every sort that contain detailed information about what every block does and how you can best use it in the game world.  So far I have not found anything similar for Creativerse, or at the very least when I google for anything… all that returns is a series of YouTube videos.  Since I don’t want to have to wade through a YouTube video to find the one nugget of information I need… I just started falling back on the things I know as true in Minecraft.  The basic logic of how the world works is very similar, but the primary difference comes in the actual creating of things.  Recipes in Creativerse are significantly more complicated than they are in Minecraft.  For example to create stone flooring, you need raw stone which is a given, but also stone rods and melted wax.  You get the melted wax by taking honey comb that you can only find way up high in the leaves of trees… and melting it in a forge.  The end result is this complicated sequence of chicken and egg scenarios where you never actually reach a point of equilibrium where resources no longer are a problem.  Coal for example is one of the basic resources needed in both Minecraft and Creativerse… but the primary difference is very early on in Minecraft I reach a point where I no longer care about getting Coal, however here since I have to use special expendable extractor items to harvest it… I am constantly searching for a new supply of both the resources to build more extractors and more coal nodes to extract.

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The problem with Minecraft is ultimately that we know that game too well.  Within thirty minutes of a new game I can go find every resource I need to do pretty much everything I would want to do.  In Creativerse I feel more at the whim of spawn dynamics and hoping to find the right needle in the haystack to keep moving forward.  I’ve learned several things, like how to find Diamond, but I still cannot for the life of me figure out a way to get a reasonable supply of obsidian…  which is needed for most of the Diamond item crafting.  One of the nice things about this game is that as you collect an item it starts opening up your recipes for said resource.  Then by crafting sub components it will unlock further things that you can create with it.   Occasionally while out in the field you can find books or pages of paper that contain special “fancy” versions of existing items that you already know how to create.  As you go through the game you upgrade your weapon and powercells for your glove, that allow you to do progressively more advanced things.  However at no point even though I am swinging a magitek looking sword… do I feel like I have made combat any easier.  When I see a creature especially while delving deep into the earth… there is still a high likelihood that I am going to get faced rolled and add another “death statue” to my collection.  The game keeps giving you these rock idols each time you die… and I’ve started surrounding my base in them as a bit of a sign of honor.

Darkness is Dangerous

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Much like Minecraft there is a day night cycle and during the night things spawn that do not appear during the day.  For lack of a better term I am going to call these things “corrupted” versions of the normal monsters that you can find during the day.  When the sun raises they disappear just like they do in Minecraft.  One thing that is different however is during the night treasure chests also appear to spawn, and wandering around the countryside looking for them is much easier because they give off a glow that you can see for a large distance.  However to do this you also have to survive the onslaught of aggressive critters that are generally slightly tougher than their day time counterparts.  These treasure chests also often give you access to materials that you cannot find yet on your own and give you a bit of a jump start.  The problem being however… if you find an item in a treasure chest you have no clue where  it actually came from.  There has been a lot of trial and error and me taking on things just to see what sorts of materials they might drop.  Funny enough it took me a really long time to figure out how to get a reliable source of sinew which is used by so many crafts.

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While the game does not have the sort of food and water survival system that Minecraft eventually adopted and so many addons provided, it does have something interesting.  When you are exposed to dangerous conditions you start to see an exposure bar appear.  For example if you are roaming through the solidified Magma area, you will start see a flame gauge begin to creep up.  I am not sure what happens when the gauge reaches the top, but I am guessing you catch on fire and die.  Similarly in the above image you can see a purple biohazard gauge which is when I broke through into the “corrupted” zone.  Deep under ground I found an area that had a slight purple glow, and featured corrupted trees and all sorts of nasty creatures.  It has been extremely difficult to explore because I broke through into the cavern way the hell up into the air, and I can only spend so much time in there before my corruption creeps too high and I have to retreat.  I need to figure out how exactly you can fight these influences and see if there is a way to counteract the exposure gauge.  Similarly I went out exploring and found a tundra biome and the entire time I was there a cold exposure gauge kept creeping up.  With no real way to counteract it I finally had to teleport back to base.  The tunnel to the corrupted zone is deep under my base so I figure at some point over the next few days I will explore it further.

Speaking of Bases

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Almost all of my time so far has been spent underground, but towards the end of the night I started working on an above ground dwelling I can be more proud of.  For a long time I had a simple stone shack plunked out in the middle of the Savannah.  Last night I started raising walls for a courtyard and building a proper stone floor.  I am not sure exactly where I am going with it, but I just wanted something more noticeable while I am out roaming around.  I want to build some sort of a tower and place a beacon at the top of that now that I finally have all of the components to build one.  I am certain that once I build a white beacon it will start unlocking the patterns for different colors.  The building system is pretty intuitive, but it reminds me more of Trove than it does of Minecraft in that you toggle back and forth between building and combat modes.  Trove would honestly be my ultimate “minecraft-like” game if it weren’t for the simple blocks and insanely garish color palette.  I love the combat though, and that along keeps me coming back… I am just not that big of a fan of the building aspect.  Creativerse however seems to have that side of the equation for me, and if you also really like Minecraft, but are getting tired of its primitive client…  you might check this game out.  Right now it is $19.99 on Steam Early access, but supposedly if it ever launches it will be free to play.  They originally planned on being in early access for 4-6 months… but now it has been a little over a year so who knows how long it will last.

Misery and NDAs

Broken

Game Is Still Pretty

Over the last few days I have felt run down, and I am grasping at straws to figure out exactly why.  There seems to be something going around the office, but so far I am not really showing any signs of whatever it is other than simply being exhausted.  Last night I largely struggled with a Migraine that kept me in a pseudo hibernation state, but this morning as I sit down to the keyboard and attempt to drink my coffee I am just feeling generally lousy.  One of my co-workers has been out for three days with something, so I am hoping I am not coming down with whatever that was.  Last night was the night of restless gaming.  I attempted to log in and be present in Final Fantasy XIV but only wound up AFKing outside the guild hall.  It made me appreciate just how much I love our free company house.  It really is in just about the perfect location that seems to be close to just about everything in The Mists neighborhood.  The only problem is… it is small.  We have talked for a bit about potentially trying to pool our resources and getting a bigger house, but the problem there is we would have to move and likely out of our neighborhood.

One of the things that I like the most about where we are situated is that we actually know a large chunk of the neighbors surrounding us.  While it has not been nearly as busy since the launch of Heavensward as everyone has fallen into this pre 3.1 lull…  it is still nice feeling like you are part of something larger.  While idling in FFXIV I attempted to play some Destiny and managed to complete a few bounties.  However my aim was constantly wonky, and I knew I should not be attempting anything serious.  As the night wore on the headache got worse and ultimately I ended up retiring to bed for awhile… the finally ending up on the Sofa.  I hate those days where you have the will to play something…  but cannot struggle through the “bad feels” in order to actually make any headway.

NDAs are Back

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I am using Trove as the screenshot for this little section because it was one of the first “who needs an NDA” alpha games that I can remember playing.  Everything about that game process was so out in the open that development discussions were openly happening on Reddit.  For a period of time it seemed like every new game coming down the pipe was sans NDA so that folks could stream it freely and generate buzz.  I was shocked when I managed to get into the Warlords of Draenor friends and family alpha for example… and was told that I could talk about it freely.  The problem being… this open transparency bit more than a few games in the ass.  Development is a messy time and as things are changing…  you end up with features in “partially finished” states that look like a finished product to the gamer.  The big problem with open and “pay to join” Alphas is that they no longer feel like testing.  Instead you have simply released a broken game.

As a result lately I’ve noticed a significant number of games bringing back the NDA.  Hell some of them seem to be almost unwilling to let the NDA go, as they have been in fairly prolific testing for a couple of years.  As of right now I am in a handful of NDA bound alpha processes, and each of them seems to be trying to return to the era when Alphas were actually that.  The problem with this is, I am finding myself far less interested in playing something that I can’t actually talk about on my blog.  So generally speaking I install the Alpha client and play every now and then, but I am not actually playing enough to be a proper tester.  I feel bad for this because I have always been the type to bug note the hell out of things as I see them.  While I think it is probably a good thing for Alpha processes to regain some of their previous closed nature, I also feel far less invested in a game until it is actually hatched and ready for public consumption.  So many things over the last years have blurred the lines between finished product and testing, and the current era of incessant and constant “early access” games just makes me leery to invest too much of myself in a game until I know that it is nearing its finished state.

Blaugust Games of Week – Week 2

Another Week Down

EverQuest2 2015-08-07 06-27-43-01 One of the things that I find easiest to blog about is when I am experiencing a new game, or re-experiencing a game after some time has passed.  As a result last week I started doing the Blaugust Games of the Week thing, and for the first week I posted  three vastly different titles.  While Marvel Heroes 2015 has been in my gaming rotation for some time now, Everquest II and Dirty Bomb were not and as such I spent a bit of time this past week playing both.  While I didn’t really talk much about any of the games this week, I hope some of you out there at least gave them a shot.  I spent the most time playing Everquest II on the Stormhold Time Locked Server.  It has been so strange starting from scratch without having some of my favorite leveling spots.  The later leveling zones like Darklight Wood and Iceclad Ocean are just better designed than the original Everquest 2 leveling process was, and as a result you could tear through them so much more quickly.

As of last night I hit level 10 on my Iksar Shadowknight, and in part I think I was doing things the hard way because I stormed right out into the Commonlands and attempted to start leveling off the mobs out there that tend to be significantly higher than my level.  One of the things that I had forgotten about the Commonlands were all of the Small Chests that drop additional quests.  At this point my quest log is full of level 15-20 Far Seas supplier quests that essentially ask you to kill X of a thing and then turn in the end result at an NPC.  I remember these being the bread and butter of early leveling, but I have to say the thing I miss is all of the individual neighborhoods of Freeport.  I think it was a huge disservice to the game when the revamp of Freeport got rid of these completely.  They are now instanced zones that you can only enter on specific quests, but I have to say these zones made up a lot of the feel of both Freeport and Qeynos and did a good job of explaining why the cities were the way that they were.  Of the three titles from this week, this is the one that I am most likely to keep playing because I am finding an odd enjoyment out of retracing my EQ2 roots.

Trion Theme

Since it is once again Friday it is time for me to pick another three games to talk about and suggest.  This time around I decided to go with a theme and as a result I am picking three games from Trion.  Again I am limiting my selections to games that you can download and start playing immediately without having to purchase a game client or pay a subscription fee.  My goal is to make it so folks who are stuck and in need of inspiration can pop into one of these games and get instant “blog fodder”.

Rift

rift 2012-05-31 20-38-58-07 Considering the announcement of the World of Warcraft expansion yesterday, I thought it was fitting to lead off this morning talking about Rift as it was the first game to actually pry me away from the WoW Juggernaut.  The game is designed in such a way so that in theory you can play one character and provide every possible role in the game.  This was not necessarily the case at launch but over time they have provided additional talent trees or “Souls” to help flesh out the missing abilities.  So now you can absolutely be a healing warrior or a tanking mage.  This game has an absolutely phenomenal early leveling game, and the first fifty levels are an absolute joy to level through.  The expansions however are a completely different thing.  I personally found both leveling in Storm Legion and Nightmare Tides to be extremely tedious, and found myself wishing they had not abandoned the early game that I enjoyed so much.

The core of the game though is great, but there are various things you are going to have to content with especially along the lines of ability bloat.  One of my key complaints about Rift has been that you end up with a lot of abilities where ability 2 and 3 are absolutely better than 1… but have long cool downs.  The end result is that you usually end up macroing all three together, which can lead to some fairly uninteresting game play.  That said the game excels at letting you literally branch out in any possible direction and build a character out however you want to.  There are some less than optimal options, but in theory any combination of three Souls will make a potentially viable character, which gives you a lot of freedom to customize things as you see fit.  Fortunately the game has an excellent set of prebuilt specs to at least get you going in the right direction.  As far as the free to play goes… it is among the least restrictive and there are not really any pay walls standing in your way.

Steam DownloadDirect Download

Trove

Trove 2014-09-25 19-18-33-410 I was lucky enough to get in on the first wave of Alpha invites for Trove and having played it that long… has been an interesting experience.  The game has changed massively in that time, and the key elements have shifted and morphed but the basic game is still the same.  I tend to think of Trove as Minecraft meets Diablo, and my recent Bel’s Big Adventure series of Minecraft videos has made me appreciate how important this really is.  Minecraft has a fairly horrible combat system, that is passible but frustratingly bad if you are going to spend much time fighting anything.  Trove on the other stand decided to go in a direction that allows you to pick one of several classes that each have their own built in abilities and a MOBA style character design.  I tend to have a natural synergy with the base Knight class, but have spent significant amounts of time playing the Gunslinger and Neon Ninja as well… and they are all extremely well built.  The core gameplay loop in Trove centers around going out into the world and fighting baddies to find interesting stuff in level ranged based worlds that steadily increase the challenge.

On top of this however there is a very awesome building system where you can build extremely complex custom worlds for your “Club”, or you can build out your cornerstone which is a traveling spawn point that you can move with you as you go out exploring the world.  I love this aspect of the game because it feels like I am able to take all of my most important resources and keep moving my base of operations as I go exploring.  The other thing that makes this game amazing is the community support, and the vast majority of the weapons that you will get were created by fans just like you.  The game has a silliness to it that is contagious, and I will forever cherish my Dapper Raptor mount that you can see above.  Another favorite of mine is the ability to collect item appearances and then make ANY piece of gear that you get look like that, so as you keep exploring you just keep opening more and more unique looks for your character. If you have never played Trove I highly suggest you download it and give it a shot.

Steam DownloadDirect Download

ArcheAge

ARCHEAGE 2015-06-18 11-13-03-53 ArcheAge and I have an extremely checkered past.  I was in the early Alpha process of this game and found the community to be among the most toxic I have ever experienced in any game genre.  As a result I pretty much actively ignored the game for some time.  However with some of the AggroChat folks started testing the waters and playing it… I decided to give it another shot.  The end result has been a pretty enjoyable leveling experience and allowed me to see just how subtle and nuanced the game really is.  I am not a fan of open world ganker style pvp… and early in the game that seemed to be extremely prevalent.  More so than that, the players seemed to revel in griefing others in non-combat ways as well.  If you AFK’d in town, someone might come along with a tractor and push you out into the middle of a dangerous area just to watch you die.  However all of those elements seem to have gotten bored and moved on, and what is left seems to be a bunch of generally nice folks.

The game play itself is also rather good, and while the quests are pretty basic the world is gorgeous and huge, and the class designs are really interesting.  While Rift has an issue with duplication of abilities, ArcheAge seems to be designed in a way so that there is natural synergy between talent trees without giving you a bunch of abilities that you will never actually use.  I have gone full circle on my opinion of this game and you can track the progress if you flip through some of my blog entries.  The game is absolutely playable on the free to play model, but there are some serious constraints.  Namely it is very difficult to do more than just one thing as a “free” player because every action is throttled by your abysmal labour points.  As a Patron player your labour regenerates when you are offline… as a free player you have to be logged into the game waiting on your points to come back.  The other huge constraint is that free players cannot own land, which means if you get very serious about this game you are likely going to end up subscribing.  However in the meantime the free model does allow you to get your feet wet.

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