Pay for Placement Scam

I am breaking my review of the games coming out in 2019 to talk briefly about a weird experience I am having with a website.  In my travels the other day I stumbled across one of those “Top 100 Gaming Blogs” lists, and I clicked through to see if there were any blogs on it that I recognized.  Generally speaking this is not the case because in my experience these lists tend to include a ton of corporate blogs managed by the game companies themselves.  The sites listed largely fit this bill, but as you got towards the bottom of the list I saw a bunch of smaller sites…  none that I actually recognized but still smaller than MassivelyOp that was also on the list.  Looking around the site it seemed to be a mishmash of two things happening…  firstly it was some sort of a RSS reader tool that seemed to suggest that you could subscribe to a bunch of sites and get their content delivered to your mailbox.

Secondly it seemed to be selling access to the blog information to marketers, since when you register a site you are providing a contact name, the URL and an email associated with the blog.  Claiming to be able to provide relevant bloggers in a given subject area.  There was a form that allows you to submit your blog and on a whim I decided to do just this.  At this point things start getting really weird and shady.  You notice I have not mentioned the site yet or linked to them…  it is largely because of the behavior that followed and my not wanting to give them any eyeballs as a result.  Within minutes of signing up for the website I got the following email in my inbox.

feedspot-payforplacement

So essentially on top of selling to marketers, they are also double dipping on the back end and running a pay for placement scam.  This email arrived so rapidly that it has to have been scripted, and that they did not actually take any time to review my website.  Additionally it isn’t really a “top 100 gaming blogs” list if you are letting people pay money to get onto it.  As a curiosity I clicked through to see how much it cost for this gold service, and things get even stranger.  For reference its roughly $24 a year, to essentially place your website on one of their lists, which is a thing I was not interested in.  However two hours after clicking on the link to view the pricing… I got this email.

feedspot-goldoffer

Of note… I am blanking out the guys name because he keeps email from his personal account on the site in question and in general I don’t think it is terribly cool to spread someones actual name around.  I am not trying to Dox the person after all.  Things keep getting weirder from here.  Roughly eight hours pass and I get an email from the site telling me that I need to verify my email address.  My working theory is that since I had not been responding to this guy at all… he is assuming at this point that I must have given him a bogus address.  At this point I am finding this whole process interesting… so I validate the address and upon landing on the site it tells me that my account is in violation and that I have signed up for too many websites.  That in order to keep using the service I will have to upgrade to Gold.

feedspot-furtherpush

This morning I got the above email which is honestly what prompted me to take time and write about this scam.  Notice how that it has switched from being listed on a top 100 list to being listed on a top 200 list.  Additionally they are pushing a bunch of information about the site trying to sell you on how many eyeballs your $24 a year is going to be buying you.  Back in High School there was something referred to as the “Top Scholars” scam, and there were a few perpetrators out there.  They would request mailing lists for all of the graduating seniors and send out a message targeted at the parents touting that their child had been selected as some sort of an elite scholar and that they had earned the rights to be listed in some book.  They go on at length about how much this book is going to improve their chances of getting into a good college, and that the only catch is that they needed to purchase one of these deluxe edition gold leaf adorned $150 tomes to go ahead with the listing.  Thankfully our gifted and talented coordinator warned all of the parents about this scam and as a result my parents did not fall for it…  but I know others who did.

What we are seeing with Feedspot is a confusion amalgamation of product offerings…  including something that is very much the digital version of that scam.  They seem to be targeting the bloggers themselves and promising fame and more traffic and targeting the marketers promising a verified list of contacts to get them in touch with people who could influence their customers.  For everyone else…  you have a RSS feed site that offers an email digest service.  There is nothing necessarily “wrong” with a capital W about anything they are doing, but it is nonetheless somewhat shady.  The thing is… this isn’t the only site offering a somewhat questionable top 100 list and likely not the only site that is going to offer to place your site on said list for a small fee.  This is more or less a public service announcement that when you see something like this… it is likely going to be a scam.

I’ve still not responded to any emails from the site, because at this point I find it sort of entertaining.  Hell if they actually do read my blog they might make a response here, but I have been pretty careful not to actually include links to any of their content.  Posts like this one are likely why no one will ever take this blog seriously…  however I do have an interesting product review in the works.  I’ve always said that I was willing to review products if they actually were something somewhat related to my interests… and if there were no strings attached…  and someone actually finally nibbled on my conditions.  So we will see how well that works out once the product actually arrives.

 

2019 Looking Forward: Games with Release Dates

mv5botq5n2mzndqtmtuyzi00zti0lthhztgtzgu1zmy2ogmwodblxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzy0mte3nzu-_v1_sx1777_cr001777999_al_

Over the weekend I talked a bit on the podcast about the various games that were coming out this year that I happened to be interested in.  This morning I thought I would start a series where I talk about some of them here on the blog.  It is a really big list so as a result I felt like I needed to break it up a bit.  This morning we are starting off with the games that actually have fixed release dates…  so I would say these are the MOST likely to release during the 2019 calendar year.  I’m going to be talking about them in chronological order of release dates.  I’m also listing the platform I am currently targeting at playing the game on.

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe – Switch – January 11th

pfdotrwt61-bpihtetyenzf24ga_wr7

There is so much wrong with the name of this game and it represents all of Nintendo’s jacked up naming conventions colliding at once.  That said I am really looking forward to playing this on a console that I actually enjoy playing.  Sure this is another repackage of a WiiU game for the Switch… but I am in support of this practice because I have no interest in actually playing my WiiU.  It was not a great console… but it happened to have more than a handful of really interesting titles on it.  I hope they all get the re-release treatment, because the switch is just a more versatile platform.  This comes out in three days so it represents the first of the titles on the list that I am interested in.

Onimusha: Warlords – Switch – January 15th

086267

I loved the Onimusha series on the PS2 and am super amped about this game getting a re-release.  It is coming out on PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Switch…  and quite honestly I am not really certain which platform I intend to pick it up on.  Given that it appears to be a remaster and not a remake…  I figure it is going to control like a PS2 era game which leads me down the path of favoring playing this on a console as opposed to the PC.  I figure even on PC it will mostly be required to hook up a controller to be able to experience the title, so I might as well just start out on a console for the native controller experience.  At this very moment I am leaning towards Switch as it gives me a wider breadth of play options.

Metro Exodus – PC – February 15th

metro-exodus-wallpaper-1

This list is going to include a bunch of games that I am excited about…  but likely won’t play at release.  Metro Exodus is the first of these, largely because it is releasing in a time with a pretty packed number of releases…  and a game that I way more interested is releasing a week later.  I’ve come to peace with the fact that the Metro series is not in fact Russian Fallout as it originally appeared.  I can live with it being a mostly on rails shooter experience, because the world is so rich and interesting.  This game however supposedly opens the world up a bit giving you more freedom to roam around in the maps a bit.  There is also supposedly part of the game that takes place on the literal rails…  and I loved Snowpiercer.  It looks really interesting so it goes on the list.

Far Cry New Dawn – PC – February 15th

mv5botq5n2mzndqtmtuyzi00zti0lthhztgtzgu1zmy2ogmwodblxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzy0mte3nzu-_v1_sx1777_cr001777999_al_

This appears to be the year of neon color palette post apocalyptic games.  I talked briefly about this game yesterday when I spoke of Far Cry 5, and I am still really interested to see how that setting turns into this one.  This is also likely to get played way after the release date because once again it butts up against a game I am looking forward to more fervently.  I feel like I might be in a kick of playing single player titles, and this is another on that fits into that list.  However I still have a pretty hefty backlog of titles I have started but never finished…  like Assassin’s Creed Origins and God of War…  so it seriously might be a while before I try it.

Anthem – PC – February 22nd

anthem

Now for the title that is holding the last two hostage.  I am super limited in what I can say about this game because NDA…  but I have an awful lot of hopes riding on it.  I also want to give Bioware a shot at making this work, because I feel like this might be the last chance EA gives that studio before shuttering them.  I am not being hyperbolic here…  EA has a proven track record of closing studios when it deems they are no longer profitable.  As a new IP… it looks really interesting and I think there is going to be enough meat on these bones to satisfy the fans that cut their teeth on the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series.  I also think this game is angling for splitting the difference between Destiny and Warframe and creating a game that probably appeals to both tribes of players.  All of those things seem really good… it just depends on how the game launches.  I will be playing on PC, so if you are also planning on playing let me know.  I have no clue what the Guild/Clan systems are going to be like but it would be nice to gather up a decent amount of folks for launch.

The Division 2 – PC – March 15th

the-division-2-1117033

Now for the first of two titles that I am really not certain about.  I liked The Division for about the first twenty levels of gameplay…  and then it became a slog as things started to get more serious and the mobs became more bullet-spongey and I seemed to be wearing paper thin armor.  I finally reached the level cap back in October…  but that was a really long ride of me bouncing out pretty regularly before I finally got there.  I have not pre-ordered this game, because in truth I really want to see more of it before that happens.  I was hoping I would get into an Alpha or Beta so it could win me over, but a combination of the bleak setting mixed with the third person shooter game play…  it may not be the game I am looking for.  That said I know a lot of people will be playing it.  Ultimately whether I give this a shot depends largely on how engaged in Anthem I am just shy of a month after its launch.

Rage 2 – PC – May 14th

rage-2-gamescom-hands-on-04-overdrive

I feel like I am one of the few people who hold a serious candle for the original Rage.  I loved everything about it… except for the fact that it felt like it simply was not finished.  As you near the end of the game… I legitimately thought that we were working on a world two scenario with the game about to open up in a big way and let me explore new areas.  Instead I got a credits roll… and the game was over.  I THINK that the intent was to keep releasing DLC content but the poor sales of the game and the technical problems on literally all platforms… especially console…  lead that plan to get scrapped.  Now we get a new game and it appears to be part of the ushering in of the neon apocalypse.  I am not sure if I will like this game…  because I am not sure if enough of the original still lives to make me interested in it.  If this ends up just being a neon mad max sim shooter…  I am not entirely sure how interested I will be.  I am still interested enough however for it to make the list.

What are some of the games you are looking forward to in 2019…  specifically with set launch dates?  Tomorrow I am likely going to talk about some of the things that are going to release… we just don’t have launch windows yet.

 

 

 

 

 

Cleansing Twitter

turnoffretweets

On Wednesday I talked about some of my hopes for the new year, and one of them…  I have already made significant strides towards.  Unfortunately it is not the exercise and losing weight one… because in truth I am largely waiting until I am no longer on vacation to try that.  We also have a bunch of sweets and stuff that we need to remove from the house before that can properly begin.  That said, once I return to the swing of things I will begin that one in earnest.  Another stupid one that came up this morning is that we are going to try our best to triage the mail every single day instead of letting it stack up for a week before looking at any of it.

The one however that I already made a big dent in is taming twitter.  As of posting on Wednesday I followed just shy of 1200 people and as a result my main timeline was impossible to keep up with.  In the past I had made an attempt at creating a “Timeline 2.0” list that contained the people that I did not want to miss posts from… but I was phenomenally bad at keeping it updated.  Additionally there were a few cases where I unfollowed someone for a reason… and then kept seeing their post not realizing that I had them in that timeline as well.  Basically it was not a great solution.

Twitter unfollows are always a fraught experience, because I am certain that I have a few mutuals that would be hurt if I unfollowed them.  So instead of entering the difficult territory I decided to start with a simple change.  Essentially I went through my follow list and added any “Brands” to a new list that I could assign to a column and immediately unfollowed the account.  This also included anyone that I interacted with as though they were a brand or at least a brand ambassador like Deej for example from Bungie.  Now this did not include anyone that I have what I would consider a personal relationship with that has been built up through interaction over the years.

I also created a “Cute Stuff” feed that has most of the various animal accounts that I follow and a few other things that I find funny… essentially to give me a concentrated column of pure enjoyment.  The end result however is that I removed 166 accounts from my main feed… and it is shocking just how much of what I would consider spam to be coming from those accounts.  I did not realize just how much Funko for example tweeted until I punted them off the island.  Sure this means that I will no longer be eligible for the various “follow and retweet” contests…  but seeing as I have been using twitter ten years and never actually won one of those…  I think I will be fine without them.

turnoffretweets

Now even after this…  there are a bunch of people that I enjoy as human beings but don’t necessarily want to see the constant feed of mostly political based retweets.  So in those cases I have been going one step further because something I did not realize was that twitter allows you to now block retweets on a user by user basis.  We will use my account that I use to get screenshots off of my PS4 and Switch as an example in the above screenshot.  You have to click through to an individual users account page on Twitter and then if you expand the menu on the right side you can see the option of Turn Off Retweets.  This will be specific to this one user and still let you see retweets as a whole for pretty much everyone else.  After a few days of further pruning by turning off retweets for some of the highest volume accounts…  my twitter is once again a happy place.

Now the only negative here is…  this will not stop quote retweets.  This is one of those times where I really like the fact that Mastodon and MMORPG.social for example does not have a quote retoot option.  Now please don’t take my trying to make Twitter a happier place a sign that I am detaching from the Fediverse again, because that could not be further from the truth.  The instance that Gazimoff is running for the community has turned out to be a hopping place, especially for those who are into FFXIV.  I think this might be the year that I start giving up on some platforms… for example I cannot be arsed to care about Instagram at all so I might just stop trying.  Facebook is just a place that I re-syndicate my content but no one actually reads it.  I have this overwhelming desire to complete reboot this blog, but I am not sure if that will actually happen.

All of that aside…  Twitter is a much better environment for me personally after making these tweaks and I thought I would post this morning talking a bit about it in case someone wants to steal some of my ideas.  It is funny that Scopique was doing this exact same thing the same morning I was…  so great minds think alike?

Hopes for the New Year

I’ve started this post a half dozen times this morning only to keep backspacing it away.  So as a result I am just going to go with it as not to waste anymore time.  I am not used to blogging while sitting downstairs, and I think that might be harshing some of my mojo.  Either than or the fact that I am effectively writing the first blog post of 2019, a new year…  and don’t want to mess things up.  Regardless this morning I thought I would write a bit about some of my thoughts for the coming year.  I am not generally one to do resolutions, so I am going to participate in the practice without actually calling them that.  So here goes some of the things I hope for the next year.

Figure out Discord

I know this sounds like a silly topic, but I am being completely serious.  No I am not meaning figure it out in a technical sense, but instead figure out how it fits in my life.  Right now I am legitimately in fifty different discord servers, and have probably since its launch left about that many as well.  Hell there are a half dozen that I set up myself for various reasons.  This fragmentation means that I end up using none of them on a regular basis.  While I use Slack and Microsoft Teams for work purposes…  and that gave me a fixed reason to use the social Slacks I am in…  I don’t have a similar need for Discord other than when I am wanting to use voice chat for some reason.  As such we have a bunch of general purpose discords that serve as a ready voice chat option when we need one.

All of that said there are awesome people and interesting conversations going on there, and I would like during this new year to figure out how to become part of that.  I’ve been pleased to see the Blaugust discord is still active, and I love hanging out with the Moogle’s Pom crew when I remember it is a place that exists.  Unfortunately I think discord has way too much noise to really make it a constant destination.  Too many people are scattered among too many different servers to have it feel like a cohesive experience.  I think the other challenge is everyone is struggling to figure out how exactly to use it.  Every single alpha that I am in wants to use it as their primary means of communication and as a replacement for the traditional forum experience.  The UI doesn’t exactly help to identify what are things I actually should be reading, and what is just so much more spam.

It would be nice if there was a way to group servers into folders… so you could have a half dozen ones that you regularly use and then the rest neatly hidden behind a wall.  This is a problem that I want to solve this year but I am not even sure where to start apart from simply leaving every server I am in and adding them back more judiciously.

Get Over Anxiety Tanking

I am not sure where it came from but lately I have been super anxious about getting back into tanking again.  This is a big part of why I have been largely bouncing from Final Fantasy XIV is that I cannot seem to get over the hurdle of just tanking for randoms.  That is what I need to do so I can get the currency I need to upgrade my gear to be able to run the dungeons to be able to finish the main story line.  Yes I realize that was one hell of a run on sentence but I absolutely did that on purpose.  Everything in that game seems to be gated by something, and the answer to all of it is just to tank queue as a Warrior and be done with it.

That said I keep logging in, playing the cactpot and then logging right back out.  I think a lot of why I have not returned to World of Warcraft in earnest with the recent patch is that I have a similar wall that has built up against the responsibility of tanking.  I want to figure out a way past this so I can get on with my life and start to enjoy MMORPGs again.

Organize My Vault

Another huge problem I am having with Final Fantasy XIV is that I am avoiding my inventory.  I have six retainers full of shit and I cannot begin to figure out how to sort it all.  I know there is a good deal of it that I can stick in the glamour chest and be done with it, but I am so paralyzed by the mountain of items that it is effecting my willingness to go do anything that might add more to it.  I am similarly having an issue with Destiny 2 where I am running out of vault room.  I need to go through and get rid of everything that I can buy back again through the collections…  but right now I am willfully avoiding touching anything.  I am struggling with an irrational fear that I might remove the wrong thing and with no undo system and no buyback vendor…  I could accidentally get rid of something I can’t get back.

Quite honestly so many of the things I am dealing with are anxiety based…  anxiety over interacting with people, anxiety over responsibility, and anxiety over possible loss.  If I could figure out a way to solve that core problem a lot of these would disappear.

Figure Out Streaming

Another one of these anxiety triggered things is the fact that I would like to stream more…  but always struggle to push that “go live” button.  I think one of the big problems is that a lot of what I do on a nightly basis does not exactly make for “must see television”.  I don’t play the type of games that lend themselves to streaming, because in a narrative experience… the fact that I am streaming seems to get in the way.  Additionally does anyone actually want to see me grind public events in Destiny 2 for an entire night?  I would love to come to terms with this and figure out a way to work it into my life.

Figure Out Social Media

As it stands I follow way the fuck too many people on Social Media and I have been paralyzed to start trying to tackle this problem.  On Twitter I follow just shy of 1200 people and that is way too many to make it usable.  Similarly I have allowed my Mastodon profile to balloon up to 226…. which means I am setting myself up for the same sort of problem there in the future.  Again like so many of these I need to take the hard step and just start slashing those follow numbers, because it is completely unsustainable the way it is now.  There is no way in hell that I can actually interact with that many people.  Twitter vacillates between being extremely enjoyable and being a wall of noise that I cannot seem to push past.  I need to figure out how to reduce the noise.

I have not done this thing because I have not been willing to risk upsetting some people in the process.  I need to get over that and rip the band aid off.

Minimize

A lot of this has been about gaming or social media… but this one is more personal.  I have reached a point where I am larger than I have been at any point in my life.  I will never be a small person, but I need to be less big.  So this year I need to get back on the wagon and reduce my calorie intake while also increasing my exercise output.  I’ve done this numerous times in the past and I need to do it again.  The problem is something will happen in my life that causes me to stop giving a fuck about it… and then this happens.  Caring about my weight is not my default state, it is something I have to work at caring about.  So this year I need to devote serious effort into fixing this before it gets worse.

Tomorrow I will return to games blogging, since the last few posts have been more on the personal and serious side…  but I wanted to get them out of me as they appear to have needed to be written.

Year End Wall of Text

Over the last few days I have been doing a number of posts to review the year that is ending, and with today being the last day of 2018…  I thought I would probably do another one. This time however it is probably going to downshift considerably and get into personal territory.  It was an odd year for me specifically and quite frankly… not an amazing one. My world had been fairly hectic and as a result it has trickled down to effecting how I view this blog and the games I end up playing.

This was the year that I took over as Manager of my section at work being comprised of three different subject areas.  That means that on any given day I am responsible for roughly fifteen other lives, not to mention a handful of individuals that may not actually report to me but regularly seek advisement.  Now this is something I have steadily moved towards over the last decade, but even with that… I am not sure I was quite prepared for the stress level increase.

I am now accountable not only for the actions of myself, or previously the actions of the handful of application developers…  but also the actions of a whole bunch of people that I am significantly less integrated with. So this year has been in large part about me getting accustomed to this role and learning everything I can about the roles of everyone that was not a traditional developer before the transition.

We also had a pretty significant shake up position wise and saw me having to go on a hiring spree in which I filled several positions.  As is the case with hiring there is a certain trickle effect where… someone higher up leaves, and you promote someone into that position…  which leaves another vacancy and so on. This meant for what felt like six months I was doing interviews… which is weirdly more tiring than you might think.  The positive is that I got to promote a lot of great people who were waiting in the wings… and also hire several more awesome people in the process.

It is weird how much leading guilds in MMORPGs prepared me for this role, and in truth I wish we lived in a world where that was more recognizable as valid experience.  Had I not lead guilds and raids there is no way I would have had the people skills required to make the transition work at all. If you can convince 20-40 strangers to do something…  then you can convince 10-15 people you can actually sit in the same room with to make the changes needed that have actual tangible benefits to their lives.

On the gaming front however 2018 was a pretty lonely year for me, and I found myself withdrawing further and further away from anything resembling organized play.  I think part of this comes from the fact that by the time I got home… I was “over socialized” from having to be responsible for so many other people. Another part of this comes from the fact that things that happened in 2016 and 2017 were starting to really affect me in 2018.

For years I had been in the habit of hanging out every night on voice chat with the various members of the AggroChat community, be it either the other five members of the podcast or the various folks that surrounded it.  When the podcast started it was made up of 4 members that lived in the EST timezone and myself and another that lived in CST. That meant at worst we were an hour apart and pretty drift compatible as it comes to gaming together.

For years I was used to getting up at 5:30 in the morning and going to bed around midnight.  However with the way my life has changed that is just no longer sustainable. Now as the night wears on I start to wind down around 9-9:30 and play for thirty minutes or so on my phone before falling asleep around 10ish.  So that alone has greatly lowered my window of viability from having about five hours each night to do things in… to a much shorter three hour window.

Starting in 2015 a change happened…  slowly at first but it built over time.  It began with the migration westward of Tamrielo to Seattle, and before long Kodra had accepted what seemed to be his dream job and joined him.  A little bit after that Ashgar migrated as well because he had the functionality to work remotely from pretty much anywhere. Before I even really grasped the ramifications, half of our show was located on the West Coast and as such two hours behind me.

What this meant in practice is all too often they were showing up to play games…  at roughly the same time I was trying to disengage for the night. For a long while this was okayish, because I still had Thalen and Grace to hang out with, but I found myself spending less and less time in voice chat, because there was nothing more depressing than an empty server… or in our case a server with a ghost of Kodra on it because he never logs out of anything.  

Grace and I did more and more together because we seemed to usually be playing the same games.  However this year Thalen and Grace both had life changing events alter their play schedules and as such I am sort of now the odd man out as it were.  So I am left with this decision… do I just accept that I am a single player gamer or do I invest the social capitol that it takes to branch out and find new groups of people to play with?  Because of the draining nature of my work changes… the answer has generally been that I just sit alone and figure out things to do that don’t actually require other people to do them.

This is not a cry for help mind you, because there are a constant string of awesome people who keep inviting me to do things with them.  Squirrel and Waren are always offering assistance on the Destiny 2 front, and I have a list of people that I could be doing stuff with in Monster Hunter World as well.  Similarly the Final Fantasy XIV free company is super active and all it would take is for me to show up on the right nights to get back engaged with doing lots of things with them.  The problem is… all of these things take a number of “spoons” that I generally do not have in my drawer.

Two Thousand and Eighteen was a year when I felt completely out of sync with everything going on around me.  I am hoping that Two Thousand and Nineteen can see me finding ways to remedy that. Since tomorrow is New Years I am likely going to call it a holiday and not make post, but Wednesday I will return with a post about some of the ways I am hoping to change my current situation.  The last few years have been rough, and I am hoping in this next year some things start to turn around. Sorry for ending the year on a bit of a bummer post… but I sorta had to write what was in my mind.  As not to end the post on a complete downturn…  this year was also the year I got back into contact with a good friend of mine from High School so that was definitely in the wins column.

Games of the Blog 2018 Edition

desktop-screenshot-2018-12-16-11-20-59-18

Traditionally at this time of year you start seeing a bunch of review and award posts, and quite frankly I am not beneath this in the least.  However since we are recording our official AggroChat Games of the Year show this weekend, I thought I would kick off this morning with a sort of “Games of the Blog” post.  I am not going to be handing out awards or anything of the sort but instead just going to be spending some time this morning talking about the games that were really important to me during this calendar year.  The problem with “of the year” stuff is that I always get tied up on the minutiae of whether or not I should only pick games that came out during a specific calendar year, or if I can freely pick the games that I played and meant something to me.  In the end this blog post is likely going to be an amalgam of the two.

Monster Hunter World – PC

desktop-screenshot-2018-10-04-20-19-33-65

If I was going to pick a true “Game of the Year” then it would probably be Monster Hunter World because I have spent more time playing it than probably any other game.  It released in January on the Playstation 4 and I played my way through to past Tempered Kirin and into my 50s for Hunter Rank.  Then I turned around and completely restarted the game when it released on PC in August and pushed my way back up past Tempered Kirin and into the 60s on my Hunter Rank.  I call out Tempered Kirin because it really is the bottle neck for progression and is a truly painful fight…  if you are apparently anyone other than Tam who supposedly breezed right past it?  The main reason why this game deserves the prime honors for this year is two fold…  firstly I played it all year long and never stopped being engaged with it.  While I might take breaks I can always return happily and there is always something for me to strive towards be it a weapon or a piece of gear or a new event that is happening for a limited time.

The secondary reason is that this is the game that made me “Grok” Monster Hunter as a franchise.  I have purchased several versions of this franchise and each time have bounced extremely hard off of it, because quite frankly the games do a poor job of on-boarding you into this world.  They were a game series that assumed you had been playing since the Playstation 2 days and would just simply know what to do without any question.  Monster Hunter World on the other hand took time to teach you the ropes and while it has a lot of weird things going on…  in the fact that its grouping system is obtuse as hell…  it is manageable and becomes way less so on the PC which utilizes Steam social groups in place of a clan or guild.  I love this game so much and am completely amped for the expansion later this year, and for the most part this has been a year about me playing Monster Hunter World and Destiny 2 as my primary MMOs.  If you have not played this game then I highly suggest you check it out soon.  If you end up picking it up on the PC let me know, because I am more than happy to show new folks the ropes.

Destiny 2 Forsaken – PC

desktop-screenshot-2018-12-16-11-20-59-18

During Destiny 1 the Taken King expansion refocused the game and greatly improved the moment to moment interactions, and was more or less the point where I turned from a casual fan to a rabid fanatic.  Destiny 2 on the other hand had a really rough start and it felt like they had simply not learned from the three years of lessons taught by Destiny 1.  With the launch of Forsaken…  Destiny 2 had its Taken King moment where they tweaked all of the things that needed tweaking and presented the best version of the game to the public.  The game went from being something that I played but often times felt like I had no real focus…  to being a game that I rabidly consume in a weekly cycle that never quite gives me enough time to actually feel like I have done “all the things”.  There are so many micro objectives to accomplish and the moment to moment gameplay feels so much more improved, removing all of my complaints from year one.  Forsaken presented a story that was not quite what I was expecting, and gave us a choose your own adventure path to move through it.  However the real reason why it is on this list is the massive replayability, and the ability for me to drop in any given night and have plenty of things that I want to be doing.  It is a great game and our clan is starting to get active once again which is excellent…  now I just need to find the people to make a raid happen once more.

Diablo 3 – Switch

desktop-screenshot-2018-12-02-11-11-03-40

A game that I totally did not expect to be putting on this list is Diablo 3 for the Nintendo Switch, but wow is this a great port of the game.  Lately this has been my go to game of choice for the Nintendo Switch and apart from some weirdness surrounding seasonal characters it is just flawless.  I had never really spent much time playing Diablo 3 on any of the consoles, even though there was a short lived experiment of me trying to play it on the Vita through Remote Play from my PS4.  At that point however Diablo 3 on console was a vastly different experience than on the PC because you lost seasons and adventure mode.  In the meantime however Blizzard has caught the software base up and as far as I can tell all versions of the game have pretty much all of the features.  Diablo 3 fits with the portability of the switch so amazingly well and allows you to drop in and kill some demons and then pop back out and get on with whatever you need to be doing.  Well worth checking out especially if you had trouble getting into Diablo as a mouse click game…  seeing as a few of the AggroChat folks latched onto this title when they never really had with the PC equivalent.

Return of the Obra Dinn – PC

desktop-screenshot-2018-12-23-16-10-27-61

This one is extremely fresh to the list given that I played through it in a single sitting this weekend of about six hours.  Please don’t let that relatively short play time make you think that the game might not be worth every penny of its $20 price tag however.  There isn’t a whole lot I can say about this game that would not give away major plot points, however here goes the elevator pitch version.  In 1802 the Obra Dinn set sail with a sixty person crew and disappeared mysteriously…  five years later it washed up with no one still alive on board and you are an insurance adjuster for the East India Company tasked with the job of determining the fate of everyone that was on the manifest.  The trick is you are given a mystical pocket watch of sorts that allows you to see the last moments of a persons life, and through a series of these still vignettes you have to piece together what happened on the ship.  The game is essentially one giant logic puzzle, and as you go you are filling in details in a log book of sorts that asks you to determine who killed a given person and in what fashion.  All of this sounds kinda dry to this point… but once I got hooked I could not put the game down because the story it hints at is so interesting.  I guess there in lies the problem… you get hints and scraps of information instead of a cohesive narrative and are asked to draw a lot of your own conclusions…  which is sorta the thing Destiny does as well.  So if you bounce off that sort of indirect storytelling…  then it might not be for you.  For me however… I gobbled it up.

Draglia Lost – Android

dragalialost-2

I never expected to care this much about a mobile game.  I have been a bit of a snob in that department, not really considering mobile games to be of the same value as more traditional options.  Ultimately I would download something from the play store, play it for a week… and then promptly uninstall because whatever mirth was there was gone and I didn’t have a reason to keep playing once I reached the inevitable paywall.  With Dragalia however there has been a constant drip feed of content that has kept me engaged, and they do this great thing where when one event finishes…  they give you a preview of the event that is just around the corner to keep you interested and logging in every day.  This has become my before bed activity of playing through at least enough to finish all of this games Daily quests.  When there is an event going on I focus more on grinding my way through the really fun boss fights, one of which is shown in the left most panel of the above triptych.  It also feels like I am always trying to build better element focused teams, so swapping out characters and rapidly leveling them up with items to try and keep building a better fighting force.  I am still not the biggest fan of the touch to move interface…  but once I turned off the rotate 180 degree option the movement felt more fluid and manageable.  I still would prefer to play this on the switch…  but I am more than happy to keep logging in every day on my phone as I lay in bed.

 Magic the Gathering Arena – PC

desktop-screenshot-2018-09-29-19-56-39-19

Over the years I have dabbled in a bunch of digital card games like Hearthstone, but always found them to be lacking in one way or another.  I would play them and enjoy them on some level…  but never quite replaced Magic the Gathering in my heart.  The digital form factor works so much better for me personally as an adult than the paper one, because I just don’t have a group that I can play Magic with in the same way as I did in High School.  The other problem that I run into is that while Friday Night Magic exists… it is traditionally way more competitive than I want to be, seeing as I get a kick out of throwing together some janky decks built around a theme…  that just get plastered by anyone who is “netdecking” for efficiency.  Magic Online was a generally horrible experience because it did nothing to actually onboard the player into it…  not to mention its obtuse form of purchasing cards by talking to what is essentially an IRC Chatbot.  Arena however brings the sensibility of a digital first game like Hearthstone to my beloved Magic the Gathering and I completely love it.  I am not playing every night, but have played often enough to at least get a few rounds in every single week.  If you are or were a player of Magic the Gathering… I highly suggest you check it out because this is really the game I was waiting on all this time.  Essentially Hearthstone and all of the other related digital card games are dead to me now that the ACTUAL Magic experience exists in a user friendly form.

Night in the Woods – PC

night-in-the-woods-2018-04-21-13-55-17-54

This game did not come out during the 2018 calendar year… but it was really important to me regardless.  As someone who grew up in a Tiny town and went through the awkward transition of being one of the few people who made it past my first semester of college…  with pretty much a good percentage of my class mates dropping out to “go back home”…  this game personally attacked me at times.  I related to the tale and the downfall of the town a bit too closely.  Sure we didn’t have a creepy abandoned flooded tram system in town, but we had our share of things that were once glorious and had fallen into complete squalor.  I also came so damned close to dropping out of college at one point during my path, and I sort of related to that as well.  This is a great game and the problem is… I am not sure it would be for anyone who had not experienced some of the things that are slantwise related to the tale that is being told.  For me…  I latched onto this game hard and it became this weirdly remixed version of my life.  For you however… it might just be a cute game with cartoon animals and a weirdly dark story thread running in the background.  I think you owe it to yourself however to see which it is for you… because for me it was bordering on life changing.

 

 

 

Holiday Weekend Rundown

ffxiv-starlightmaestro

ffxiv-starlightmaestro

For a good number of us this is “return to work day” and I am hoping it is finding you well.  Our holiday was a bit odd because my wife and I were realistically too sick to go to any of the family festivities.  As such we begged off on a few of the traditions until next weekend.  I used to take all of the time off between Christmas Eve and the day after New Years, but I was late getting my request in.  As such I am going to be stuck being the sole manager at work, and in truth the only voice of authority on my side of the house…  which will be interesting.  I did however take off all of next week to make up for it…  so I just need to get through the next few days.  This partial week is more or less going to be one of retrospection on the blog as I start doing the various year end activities.  This morning however I am going to talk about the various gaming related things I did over the weekend, starting with the Starlight Celebration in FFXIV…  which was adorable as usual but not really worth talking much about otherwise.

desktop-screenshot-2018-12-24-10-57-56-13

Next up there is a holiday event running in Magic the Gathering Arena where you can play Pauper for free for a handful of prizes.  I threw together some black and green jank and immediately lost the first round, so I thought this would be a short lived event for me.  My hope was to win a single round so I could get the full art Llanowar Elves.  Instead however I went five wins after that initial loss and wound up winning a Firemind’s Research…  which is in Izzet colors and not exactly the sort of thing I play but hey…  free card and closing out the event by winning.  I need to play a few more rounds so I can stack up three more of the Llanowar Elves, but when I say it is a bunch of jank I mean it.  There is literally no discernible theme in this deck other than a bunch of cards that I for one reason or another like.

desktop-screenshot-2018-12-23-20-33-52-39

Another thing that I did over the break was farm up a full set of the Universal Studios of Japan gear, which was available for PC players.  On the console you had to do a bunch of nonsense to get someone who had actually visited the theme park to start the queue for you.  On the PC however we could just join straight away so I got a cool set of reskinned High Rank Rathalos gear and a Rank 7 water based longsword.  Mostly these are things for the collection and while I will use Rathalos parts for mixed sets, it is going to be super rare that I actually break that sword out.

desktop-screenshot-2018-12-23-16-10-27-61

Another thing that happened is I played through Return of the Obra Dinn from start to finish in a single sitting.  Well technically not a single sitting as I took some bathroom breaks there, but more or less played for six hours start until I beat it that night.  For the uninitiated this is a game that is attempting to feel old school… but doing a bunch of things that those elder games never could have accomplished.  The elevator pitch is that the Obra Dinn disappeared on the high seas in 1802 and mysteriously arrived in port in 1807.  You are dispatched as an insurance adjuster for the London Office of the East India Company and armed with a special pocket watch that allows you to view the last moments of a specific individuals death.  This more or less is a logic puzzle as you need to sort out the names and fates of all fifty-ish passengers, but what hooked me was the story being told through snippets… because quite frankly I wanted to learn more and just kept pushing forward.  Well worth the play through and is now going on my list for the Games of the Year AggroChat show.

minecraft-screenshot-2018-12-25-20-11-32-66

Finally I spent a ridiculous amount of time building in Minecraft because it was relaxing.  Ultimately I was watching something on History channel about ancient ruins, which prompted me to want to build in Minecraft.  That is generally how my Minecraft sessions go… I will get the urge to build something and then off I go into a project for awhile.  I am not entirely certain how this building came out the way it did…  but I started off wanting to build a giant pyramid and then decided to shift goals halfway through.  Each time I started building it sort of took a different direction and since I snapped this screenshot I have added more stuff onto it.  I did it in creative mode since I wasn’t really in the mood to mine tons of materials before I could start this sort of a project.  There are times when I will start something legit and other times like this one where I just wanted to build a thing that I had in my head.  Right now I am getting a strong urge to demolish the staircase and rebuild it as something with landings every so often.

Regardless that was my holiday break in a nutshell.  We also recorded a show along the way at some point which I have linked above.  I hope you had the best of holidays and that you don’t have to go back today.  However if you do…  our tears will keep us moisturized as we return to the salt mines.  Let me know how your holiday break went, and what cool things you did along the way!

Holiday Checklist

desktop-screenshot-2018-12-20-19-56-01-99

desktop-screenshot-2018-12-20-19-56-01-99

This morning I feel like I should be writing something terribly profound given that this is my last post before Christmas.  Unfortunately I am not feeling profound.  We went to a Holiday party last weekend and my wife seems to have picked up some crud, which has progressed throughout the week.  Over the the last two days it feels like I too am coming down with whatever it is.  Fortunately today I only work a half day and then am off for four days.  I used to do this thing where I would essentially take off from before Christmas all the way through to after New Years but unfortunately…  given the position I am in  the other two section managers got their requests in before me.  So as such I am back to work on Wednesday and then off again the first week of the year, which should be fine.  I honestly don’t mind so much given that Christmas is largely about the kids and the other two managers have them… and I do not.  Like my cats won’t actually notice that a holiday is happening and will instead just look at me strangely when I am home during the day on a non-weekend.

Because I used to have almost two weeks off at Christmas I would do all sorts of things with that amount of time.  One year for example I played through Mass Effect 3…  and then played through Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3 all over again in sequence to see how the decisions effected each other.  Another Christmas I leveled in duo the entire time in Star Wars the Old Republic.  This time however I don’t feel like I have anywhere near as much time as I would have liked so I am going to have to temper those expectations.  Some of the things I would like to accomplish over the break.

  • Dad of War
    • I would love to actually make more progress in this game and better yet would love to beat it so that I could decide if it is in fact on my games of the year list or not.
  • Monster Hunter World
    • both the USJ and Behemoth events are live on PC and I want to farm gear from both of those.
  • Destiny 2
    • I would like to ignite the last few forges that I am missing.
  • FFXIV
    • I want to do the holiday event and collect the items that come from it.
    • I would also love to get unstuck gear wise and learn to farm dungeons as a tank again.
    • I would really love to figure out the glamour chest system and clean out my banks.
  • Elder Scrolls Online
    • I just want to figure out why the hell my patcher is no longer working and get back in game.

Now that is a lot of things to try and cram into four days, given that we also have holiday festivities involved as well.  However it is worth a shot.  We unfortunately still have a bunch of shopping to do because we are bad at thinking of things to get for people during the run up to the holidays and wind up frantic at the last moment.  It is going to be a rather un-fun holiday if my wife stays sick and I continue to get sicker.  However that does not preclude me from wishing all of you out there a very Happy Holiday.  I will likely be hanging out in various online games since that tends to be what I do on breaks, so if you see me around say hi and I will wish you a proper greeting in real time as well.  I hope everyone has a great break and some good times with whoever you choose to call your family be they related or just an assemblage of the people that matter to you in life.  Next week I will start doing my rundown posts to cap the year, but in the meantime…  enjoy yourselves and I will likely see you again on Wednesday unless the spirit hits me.

 

Holiday Checklist – I have a shortened break but here are a few of the things I would like to accomplish.

Return of the NDA

returnofthenda

returnofthenda

Yesterday I mentioned that I thought I had a blog post in me about games testing and NDAs, and this morning we are going to see if that is true.  For those who are uninitiated the NDA stands for a Non-Disclosure agreement, and if you have reached this step in life without having already signed one count yourself lucky.  As a software developer by trade, pretty much every job has required one from me so I was more than familiar with them when I also started signing them for games tests.  Since I am talking about material that cannot effectively be spoken about… I decided to mock up the experience of playing something heavily governed with the above image filled with watermarks.  Currently I am engaged in three separate alpha tests and it seems as though the winds have changed.  For awhile it was en vogue to do all of your testing as a public alpha that allowed those who were in to effectively act as free advertising for the game drumming up hype along the way.

The problem with that however is that I am not entirely certain it ever worked as intended.  YouTube has basically made a cottage industry of mocking games that are not quite ready for prime time, which in truth should be any alpha or beta test.  Originally those were times for the game to find itself and having a limited testing group helped to prune things that were not working and hone in and polish the things that were.  However within the last decade these shifted from being a development mechanism to taking on a bunch of different purposes.  You had some games where the alpha or beta served as an extended demo period… take for example Fallout 76 that went into “beta” on October 23rd and the final game “shipped” on November 14th.  Having been around software development for going on three decades now…  there are no meaningful changes that can be made in such a short period of time.

Another case that has sprung up are the games that began selling access to testing in the form of “early access” or “founders packs”, which amount to you helping to fund the development of the game and in theory helping to shape the features as they are being put into the game.  I’ve purchased a number of paid alphas over the years, because in some cases especially with Indie games it gives you the opportunity to lock the game in at a bargain price.  After all when I bought into Minecraft it was less than $10 and that certainly was an investment that paid off over time.  However all too often games languish in early access more as a means of getting their shit together and keeping websites from publishing “official reviews” of the title since they can keep claiming that it is still in beta.  Rust for example went into early access in December of 2013 and finally launched in February or 2018…  which maybe seems like an excessive amount of time in testing.  The other problem with early access is you are effectively squandering whatever hype you might have had upon launching the game…  because effectively in the eyes of your players you launched a buggy game when you opened initial access.

The biggest problem with public testing is that while it allows you to develop a bit of a grass roots community on platforms like YouTube or Twitch… it also means that at any moment you could be subject to the same sort of blooper reels that effectively killed Mass Effect Andromeda.  Within days of that game launching a number of the issues were cleared up and I found it to be an amazingly fun experience.  However once the glitch videos started circulating it not only killed the game… but effectively killed the franchise.  Opening your game to the world is effectively playing with fire and once you get to a certain level of hype there are going to be folks all too willing to shit on your game to make a buck and rake in the views.

So effectively what I am seeing as a result is that more games are going underground and slapping an NDA on so that they can safely get on with the business of testing.  I was one of the very early tests of Elder Scrolls Online, starting with the very first external test in February of 2013 and continuing right up until the April 2014 launch date.  During that time I watched that game change significantly sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse but it was legitimately a testing process where we provided feedback and the developers reacted to it.  That is how testing should be and started out with limited engagement testing every few weeks and then eventually worked up to being on for longer periods of time.  

I’ve been in extremely bizarre alpha tests as well.  One company required me to effectively fill out a contract that included the NDA as part of that, and not only sign a digital agreement but to print out a document and get it witnessed and notarized.  In addition to that I had to send in a photocopy of my drivers license.  I’ve had others where the game was technically restricted but I never actually wound up agreeing to anything and had a key just show up in my mail box with no mention of the NDA in the letter.  I personally tend to take the NDA pretty seriously, and in twenty years of testing maintained a firewall that keeps information about said games out of the things I am willing to talk about publicly.  I am only really comfortable talking about this in general right now because I am in three separate testing processes and there is no real way of you guessing which games that might be.

Sure it sucks that I can’t talk about the things that I am really enjoying, because there are things I could hype about each of them.  There are also things that I would complain about each of them, and that NDA is effectively buying the company time to fix or at least mitigate those problems.  I for one am happy to see closed testing returning to seemingly being the norm, because after years of public testing I am not sure the hype generated ever was worth the issues that arose from it.  There will always be people willing to break NDA like the individual who streamed Anthem and got some reportedly major circumstances for doing so…  but then later was confirmed to not actually have any games on their Origin profile to start with.  The thing is though… breaking an NDA is against the terms of service of most digital distribution platforms and in theory you could lose whatever account you used to cause the break on.  It would never be worth me risking my Steam account for example, just in the hopes of getting a few more eyeballs to find this blog or my neglected twitch stream.

To wrap this up… I am very much in favor of games testing starting to go dark again.  That said my job is also not tied to talking about games.  This is a thing I do for fun and as a hobby, and I have gone out of my way to not actually make any money from this blog in spite of the regular stream of folks who want to advertise on it.  Were this my daytime gig I might feel completely different, because then I would be grasping at things to fill the current 24 hour a day gaming news cycle.  Everyone loves seeing a sneak peek at games, and when you have alpha access and can take some really cool screenshots or videos to embellish your prose, it makes for a compelling user experience.

This is just my take, but I am absolutely open to other ideas. Are you in favor of games testing going dark or would you prefer that testing remain open and public?

Digital Fragmentation

epicgamesstorefront

There has been a significant amount of consternation surrounding the recent activities of Epic Games…  which I still feel like I need to cram the Mega in there.  There are those that herald this as a new era in which Steam actually has proper competition.  There are others that signal this as the end times for PC Gaming because players will be fragmented across many platforms.  There are others still that are complaining largely because they don’t want to have to install the “Fortnite Client” to play their games.  For me however I am somewhat amused as I sit back and watch the events unfold  because it all has a sense of deja vu.

Epic is a company that had a game that was a big enough success… that they decided they were able to askew all of the traditional norms and funnel everyone through their own infrastructure.  If you removed the word “Epic” and replaced it with Valve the above statement would still be completely true.  Steam started out more or less as the digital distribution mechanism for Half-life 2, and a good number of us only got our steam accounts largely because of this.  Prior to Steam I had dabbled with a few services like Direct 2 Drive which was at the time a side project by IGN, in fact my original Mass Effect 2 copy was through it.  However round about 2008 I standardized on Steam as my platform of choice since it was clearing winning the early digital distribution battles.

Since around 2010 I made the decision to go entirely digital if possible, and that carried forward onto not only PC purchases but also with consoles as well…  which has lead me to swap out a few hard drives to upgrade them in the process.  The funny thing is… you accumulate a lot of digital games scattered across different platforms.  When I purchased a video card a few years back I got a copy of Witcher 3 for example…  but it was only redeemable on the GOG Galaxy client.  Each month as part of my Amazon Prime subscription, Twitch Prime gives me a slew of games…  that are only available through the Twitch client.

I just did some looking this morning and not counting single game clients…  I have the following Multi-Game Launchers installed on my system…

  • Battle.net
  • Bethesda.net
  • Epic Games Launcher
  • Glyph
  • GOG Galaxy
  • My.Com Game Center
  • Origin
  • Perfect World ARC
  • Steam
  • Twitch Client
  • Ubisoft UPlay
  • Wargaming.net Game Center
  • Windows Store

That is thirteen clients, not counting Discord who also seemingly wants to get in on the action but that I don’t have any games through.  So to the point of those being concerned about fragmentation…  what difference does one more store make giving that eleven of those clients I had installed prior to the launch of the Epic Games store.  This isn’t taking into account the three online stores that I also interact with on Microsoft Consoles, Sony Consoles and Nintendo Consoles.  The funny thing is…  I can think of a couple other clients that I no longer have installed that would have bumped that number up even higher.

sonystorefront

What makes it even more disturbing is the number of games that I am accumulating that I will probably never actually play.  Originally this was just the realm of Humble Bundle… when I purchased a bundle deal because of one title that I wanted… and got fifteen more that I didn’t.  However since then there are Xbox Live Gold and Playstation Plus which I largely just consider to be the upkeep costs of owning a Microsoft or Sony console…  but that also give away games each month that I feel obligated to log into their respective store fronts and claim just in the off chance that I might want to play them at some point.  On top of that Origin gives away games on the regular… which I am admittedly less connected to regularly grabbing because Origin is hands down the worst client.  But now Epic Games is determined to start giving us new games every few weeks, and Twitch Prime offers up a deluge of new titles each month.  Ultimately I need some way of keeping track what I have on what platforms and the only real options I have found are completely manual.

Basically what I am saying is… we have been fragmented for a very long time and while I respect the notion that folks don’t want to sully their systems with yet another launcher I am also not that sort of a purist.  Disk space is cheap and I like the concept of having a lot of games “on tap” and ready to play when the mood hits me, and as a result I have all of these damned launchers scattered throughout my system doing whatever launchers do.  It is an unfortunate reality, but it is a reality I long ago accepted as something that I am going to have to deal with.  The only two clients that I really take issue with are Origin and the Windows Store, but one of those I can’t uninstall because it came with the operating system… and the other I am resigned to use because I still care about Bioware games.

When it comes to making game purchases however that is a completely different situation, and as it stands now…  I am not opposed to the concept of buying games on the Epic Games store.  The interface currently is way better for finding games than that of Steam… but that is only because it has a handful of games on it at the moment.  Steam is a victim of its own success and its generally hands off approach that they have had in attempting to manage their platform.  As such potential gems are embedded in among of shovelware asset flips, making it extremely hard to find those things that you maybe have not heard of yet… but probably should give a shot.  I guess time will tell how Epic decides to combat that with their own store front.  For the moment however I don’t think some sort of a PC Gaming Apocalypse is upon us…  nor do I really care about having to install another client.  I think things are going to move forward much the way they always have …  and by the end of next year I will probably be forced to install a few more vestigial clients in order to keep playing the things I want to play.