E3 2017: Bethesda, PC Gaming, Devolver

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Bethesdaland

I am lagging behind a bit in my posts since I am still limiting myself to one of these a day… and whatever I happen to be able to write during my normal morning writing period.  Bethesda is traditionally the gaming showcase that I look forward to the most during E3.  In the past they have announced a lot of really awesome stuff like Fallout 4… and then turned around and announced that they were going to release said game within six months.  Bethesda traditionally is the master of the hype cycle, and while there might be rumors swirling around a game… it won’t actually be confirmed until it is nearly ready to launch and there is a clearly defined pathway to release.  This year however it feels like a lot of the amazing announcements were lacking.  There were several items that were mentioned at other shows…  for example they talked about Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind… that was just literally released on the 6th so it doesn’t feel like that really counts.  Similarly Quake Champions was one of their big reveals for last year, and it has been in some state of beta for awhile now so it also feels very “been there done that”.  Some of their big announcements this year…  were also things we already knew about  Doom VFR and Fallout 4 VR.  The problem with both is…  I don’t have a VR setup nor am I really planning on getting one in the near future so that doesn’t terribly interest me.  If I was getting something in the VR space it would probably be the PS4 VR option given that it is a hell of a lot more plug and play and seems to have a wealthy of interesting titles developed for it.  Similarly Skyrim Switch was announced… more or less during the Switch reveal, but we finally got some real details and confirmation I guess.  Here is a run down of the things that I did think were worth mentioning from the show.

The Evil Within 2

If you have ever wanted to be afraid of milk…  watch this trailer.  I own copies of Evil Within but I have never actually gotten around to playing it.  It is on that long list of things that I want to play but never seem to find time to actually do.  In theory I should have been using this time when my wife is travelling to play a whole slow of immersive single player games.  Whatever the case this game looks really awesome, even though I had hell actually following what was happening.  It seems like this is a continuation of the events from the first game.  If you are into that sort of thing it seems like this might be right down your alley.

Dishonored Death of the Outsider

At first we thought this was a DLC sort of like the previous two that were released for Dishonored, however this is apparently an entire stand alone game.  Once again it follows the Daud side of the story, and apparently brings back Billie Lurk.  I am thinking maybe we will see the same sort of options that you have with Dishonored 2 where you can focus on playing either of the characters, but I might be wrong.  Not a whole lot of information is actually out yet about the game, but what we were treated to was a really awesome teaser trailer.  It seems like we are going to go Outsider hunting, since they blame that entity for all the chaos that has happened.  I know I will be playing it, because I loved Dishonored…  but I have also found that I don’t get into the non-Corvo games nearly as much as the mainline series.  It is kinda cool though that we are functionally taking two paths at all times to this story…  the Story of Corvo and the Story of Daud.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

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This title release has been a hotbed of conversation among the AggroChat crew… namely in that I am amped as can be and Kodra and Tam are disappointed.  Me getting into the reasons here is going to be super spoilery about the first game… and since I still think everyone should play the first game…  I am largely going to refrain.  Suffice to say I am pumped in every possible way about the release of this game and it pretty much gave me everything I could ever hope for going going into it.  The thing about New Order that I enjoyed the most was seeing this jacked up re-imagining of the world.  I am a sucker for alternative history novels, and this game fed right into it…  especially given the what would have happened if we lost World War II thing has been played so many times in fiction.  On the other side… I have been playing Wolfenstein since 1992 and have played through every iteration of the game including all of the parts of the actual chronology leading up to this game.  For those who are curious… and want to start at the beginning…  best as I can piece it together you have Return to Castle Wolfenstein > Wolfenstein (2009) > The Old Blood > New Order > New Colossus.  The only one I really have hell placing in that order is Old Blood… and it could fit directly before New Order or could even be before RtCW.  Anyways the whole point is I am deeply invested in this franchise and have been for years.  New Order was a strict departure from the largely mindless kill all the Nazis gameplay, but definitely in a good way.  It introduced a compelling story to wrap around the core of the game…  but in the end I was still largely there for that core gameplay of leave no one standing.  Generally speaking all I am looking for out of a sequel is a chance to dust off the characters I have bonded with… and take them out on another adventure.  If New Colossus provides me with this… it is going to be everything I could have hoped for.

Creation Club

I am supremely uncertain of how I feel about this announcement.  Bethesda has been working on a way to sell mods for awhile now, and even though they claim this is not paid mod support…  it is definitely paid something.  Time will tell what this actually looks like in the final version, and what the economy is like.  However immediately it is reminding me of the paid creator system in the SOE games.  That actually produced some really awesome stuff that allowed talented 3D artists to sell new and interesting weapons.  The prime difference there is… that was a previously closed game that was opened up through their creator system.  Bethesda games however traditionally are open to mods and if you have the will you can find pretty much anything already for the games.  You want to run around Fallout in Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine armor?  Sure there is a mod for that.  Things like that however cannot officially exist in either the in game mod support or the creation club, because no one has consulted with the license holder to pay for offering that.  It seems like Bethesda is damned determined to make this system happen regardless, so I suppose we have to take a wait and see approach on it.  I do think it would be nice of the mod creators themselves have a way to actually get paid for their work.  In World of Warcraft there are lots of addons that I have chipped in a few dollars to support the author in creating it, because their work greatly improved my game play.  Similarly I have no problem chipping in some money to support a Fallout or Skyrim mod…  but I would prefer that the money go to the creator and Bethesda not get to take a cut.

PC Gaming Show

The PC Gaming show since its inception has been this really awkward show that never really felt like it could hang with the big kids.  That is not to say that Sean ‘Day[9]’ Plott does not try super hard to steer the train and keep it from completely falling off the tracks.  This year however… felt almost like a proper show.  There were a lot of changes that happened this year that maybe lead to that.  Firstly it happened during the middle of the day instead of being something happening relatively late in the evening.  Secondly they swapped the primary sponsor from AMD to Intel.. and potentially Intel cares way more about a polished presentation.  Thirdly the number of support as far as medium to big reveals went up significantly.  Now for me personally… there was not a lot about the show that I cared deeply, however there were definitely some reveals that I could see going over well.  Firstly the release of a remaster of Age of Empires seemed to get a bunch of notice, but for me personally I never played the games in that series that much.  Similarly there was the reveal of a new Xcom 2 expansion… but that also is not really my style of game.  A whole bunch of people seemed to be really happy with the reveal of Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord…  but again not exactly my type of game.  I have never wanted to be a single soldier in the middle of an otherwise RTS style battle.  The trailer that did stand out to me that I was the most interested in… was Ooblets which seemed to be this weird amalgam of Pokemon and Harvest Moon and adorable as hell.  The Last Night seems awesome…  but I won’t be buying it because I don’t want to support anything that creator does after the bullshit he has caused in the past.  Ylands also looked kinda cool.. but I feel like I have an overabundance of good sandbox games.  It is going to have to do a hell of a lot to stand out from the pack for me.  Battletech… I was a backer and am purposefully trying not to play it until it officially releases.

Devolver Digital

This show… was like the parody anti-show of E3.   They didn’t actually announce anything… or in truth show anything.  It was sort of the Tim and Eric of E3 Shows and while I personally found it funny there are a lot of people who did not seem to be in on the joke.  Among the AggroChat crew it was less in on the joke but instead that they simply didn’t appreciate the style of humor.  Buckets of fake blood are not their thing.  For me I found it entertaining and watched the entire thing…. but they were trying super hard to be edgy.  I wouldn’t suggest actually tracking down the video and watching it since it really ads no value other than an attempt at shock.

 

E3 2017: EA and Microsoft

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First up, you might notice that I have an awesome new masthead featuring my traditional Final Fantasy XIV “Bunny Samurai Warrior” appearance.  I commissioned the always amazing @AmmosArt to get this ready for me in time for the Stormblood launch.  However instead of waiting and sitting on it…  and then revealing it this coming Friday when head start begins…  I simply could not hold off my excitement and spent a chunk of yesterday morning switching it out.  While the form factor does not exactly fit my blog I am posting the full version regardless.  The amount of work that she put into getting everything just right, and even accounting for the fact that I have a blue color scheme to get the reflections in there just fight, along with those coming off of my Palace of the Dead axe… is just phenomenal.  Over the years she has sort of become the official un-official artist of whatever the hell I happen to be doing.  While I still adore the Chibi work that Rae did all those years ago, Ammo’s art style really speaks to me and has thus-far been pretty malleable to make work with literally anything I want to have her create for me.  For example… the Tam commissioned Twitter Warrior Bel, or the extremely amazing Destiny themed Sunbreaker Bel.  Other than that… this weekend was largely about the beginning of E3 when they cram a whole slew of not officially part of E3 shows into the days before the doors open.  So far I have seen Electronics Arts, Microsoft, and I stayed up for the silly late Bethesda show.  It has been a truly mixed bag of experiences.

Electronic Arts Show

Firstly on AggroChat I gave the analogy of Electronic Arts being the Dursleys from Harry Potter fame… and Bioware being the boy kept under the stairs.  Bioware is the only reason why I care about Electronic Arts in the least, and all we saw from the studio during the show was a 52 second teaser video for the new IP Anthem.  There was a follow up of course during the Microsoft event with more footage, but never have I felt like Bioware was more of a red headed stepchild.  It feels like EA is trying to them of their Biowareyness, but I will talk about that a little later when I talk about anthem.  As far as games…  we had plenty of sports..  now with a focus on roleplaying elements and campaign storyline.  This was so much the case that I literally thought for a second that they had dropped the madden name and instead decided to call this years football offering “Longshot”.  As far as games I was interested in…  Battlefront II seemed really cool and they talked about how they plan on having this cinematic campaign experience.  However when it came time to show a demo… they instead showed us more Star Wars Battlefield game play on and over the planet of Naboo…  which was cool but didn’t exactly show off any of the promised new features.

There was an extremely interesting prison break game called A Way Out by the folks that created Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.  The gotcha here is that the game must be played in multiplayer either couch co-op or networked.  I am not super keen on needing to complete a game with another person in tow, nor do I really have a ready “player two”.  They also showed off Need For Speed Payback, which is cool… but literally should have been branded a Fast and the Furious game because it feels like those movies feel.  Don’t get me wrong, Need For Speed is a really fun experience but they are also not pre-order or even day one games for me, but instead something I pick up when prices drop.  Battlefield 1 moves to the Russian front, which I would probably care about a lot were I actually playing Battlefield…  or if I even owned it.  The Russian front at least in World War II games is always the awesome front… so I imagine that will probably be the case for Battlefield 1 as well.  All in all it was a pretty disappointed show filled with a few truly awkward moments as people not used to using a teleprompter had to suddenly use one.  At least one of these moments served as our reminder that YouTube content is highly scripted, and doesn’t exactly translate to extemporaneous speaking.  The highlight of the night was twitter errupting with a bunch of people asking how the hell this “iJustine” person was.

Microsoft Show

Leading into E3… Microsoft needed to come out swinging.  This has been an entire console generation where they have been lagging far behind Sony and it all started with a poor reveal of the Xbox that focused on its multimedia capabilities.  This years E3 started with the announcement of the Xbox One X… or XBoneX the Edgelord from now on.  Its a horrible name…  if they simply dropped the one part and went with Xbox X it would make a lot more sense.  I think part of this is cognitive dissonance from the fact that Xbox One is still a really stupid name for the third Xbox in the product cycle.  All of this aside however it does look like a good platform, and the $499 price point seems reasonable…  for folks who actually care about what it is offering.  My problem with this and the Playstation Pro (which is also a stupid name) is the fact that I don’t own anything 4k for this to take advantage of.  Honestly nor do I have any real plans in the near future to shell out the money to purchase something 4k, and if I did… it wouldn’t likely be in my office but instead in the living room where I wouldn’t hook up a console anyways.  Basically I am not the target demographic but of those who are… they seemed okay with the announcements.  The games however…  that was where the story was for me given that they announced something like 42 games…  albeit a lot of those were in a lengthy montage that always seems to say “we wanted to name drop but didn’t care enough to really show it”.

 

Metro Exodus

This game looked so damned amazing, but also seemed extremely scripted.  I am interested to see what the moment to moment gameplay is like.  Functionally it just proved that the new Metro cranks up the already pretty high quality bar.

Assassin’s Creed Origins

This game looks really interesting… but unfortunately as I have learned while attempting to play 2, 3 and 4…  I really don’t like Assassin’s Creed games.  The sneaking about is exactly the opposite way that I want to play.  If there were more stand up fights, and if I could simply go from one end of town to the other systematically exterminating the enemy faction… I would probably like the game a lot better.

State of Decay 2

My criticism here is the fact that nothing about the trailer that they showed…  revealed anything about the game or at least did not explain why State of Decay is not “just another zombie game”.  I loved the first game and purchased it when it first launched on Xbox Live Arcade…  and then again on PC…  and then again when the Year One Survivor bundle came out…   and again for a handful of people when it went on sale.  I am a huge supporter of Undead Labs and what they bring to the Zombie genre, but I am always disheartened when the take away on twitter is that we really don’t need any more zombie games.  We need good games regardless of genre, and if this is anything like the original… it is going to be an amazing game.  My hope is that this game will allow them to go beyond the scope limitations they had with the first.  My other hope is that we finally get multiplayer, because the first one would have been such an amazing experience if I could have drug a few friends into the world to scavenge with me.  While I am writing this I am getting the severe itch to fire back up State of Decay.

Anthem

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I am really not sure how I feel about this game.  On one hand every possible nerd nob was turned well past 11 in the demo, and if you had told me that this was Destiny with the storytelling that Bioware is traditionally famous for…  I would be throwing money at the screen.  However there isn’t a lot in the demo that covers what the story will even be like other than a brief mission that was given to you as you wandered through town.  The suits themselves… remind me of this amalgam between Pacific Rim and Fallout 4 Power Armor.  I love the Jet packs…  and I really hope you start out with those.  Jet Packs felt amazing in Mass Effect Andromeda, and more than anything I wanted to use them as a means to traverse the areas…  even though the Nomad was freaking amazing.  The first strike the game gets for me though is the fact that it is a third person shooter.  I really prefer first person, however when scoping it felt like maybe the perspective is going to be a reasonable one.  I have old eyes and I just found it hard sometimes to sight in head shots in Division when they were at the actual ranges you would want to use a sniper rifle for.  The other big strike against the demo is just how much it feels like the initial Division demo did.  The same sort of bullshit fake voice chat, and the same sort of “we can do anything” open world game-play showcasing a bunch of stuff without really zeroing in that deep on any of them.

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I was burnt by The Division, because what they showed at E3 never really seemed to materialize in the full version.  The final game was fun enough but was definitely the sort of game you needed to have a squad with you in order to progress at reasonable levels.  I still have yet to hit the level cap because there is this weird doldrum where my gear isn’t really good enough to make the harder content easier…  but I am also not getting enough cash to be able to fix that problem.  With Anthem I am cautiously optimistic, but also concerned  that this is a steep departure for Bioware.  Mass Effect was never really known for its combat prowess… and what made Destiny work and the Division not for me at least was the moment to moment feel of the gunplay.  For Anthem to ultimately be my game they are going to need to make it feel unique each time I pick up a different kind of weapon, and be more than just a mech suit fantasy.  There is a huge part of me though that wants to throw abandon to the wind and join this hype train.  However there is that other part that is just cautious before I give my heart away to another game.

At this point I am just running out of time… but if you have the couple hours at some point you just watch the full press conference.  I will talk about my general disappointment in the Bethesda conference at another time.

 

E3 2017 Anticipation

Next week is e3 and as is usually the case the first glimmers of what is going to be talked about have started leaking their way onto YouTube.  There are several sites out there with pretty legitimate looking lists of what games have an have not been confirmed to be appearing.  Functionally the show tends to revolve around several large press events, with a smattering of other news trickling out around them.  The big shows tend to happen before the actual event starts, which means this weekend.  For those interested here is the schedule I have been able to scrape together…  most of which will be available through a stream of some sort.

  • Electronic Arts – Saturday June 10th – 12 pm PDT
  • Microsoft – Sunday June 11th – 2 pm PDT
  • Bethesda – Sunday June 11th – 9 pm PDT
  • Devolver Digital – Sunday June 11th – 10 pm PDT
  • PC Gaming Show – Monday June 12th – 10 am PDT
  • Ubisoft – Monday June 12th – 1 pm PDT
  • Sony – Monday June 12th – 6 pm PDT
  • Nintendo – Tuesday June 13th – 9 am PDT

The last several years the PC Gaming show has been an awkward cringefest to watch…  but it sort of fit its late night time slot.  With them moving it to a morning slot, I am wondering if that is a ploy to get more folks to show up and peddle their pc gaming wares.  Whatever the case I can pretty much guarantee that I am going to be watching most if not all of this over the next few days…  or at least the ones that are not happening during work hours.  The show I am traditionally the most excited for is Bethesda, because in years past they have absolutely nailed giving gamers exactly the sort of things they wanted to be hearing about.  With the Fallout 4 story arc finished, and a new Elder Scrolls outing still supposedly years away… I am not terribly certain what we might be seeing.  It is almost certain that we will be seeing some Quake Champions news… but a twitchy competitive reflex shooter doesn’t exactly excite the 40 year old version of myself the same way it might have the 17 year old me.  I mean I can always hope beyond hope that they will drop the mic this year with the reveal of Elder Scrolls VI but I won’t exactly be holding my breath either.  Instead here are the few titles I am really looking forward to hearing more about.

State of Decay 2

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State of Decay is one of those games that I loved… but never really played as much of it as I would have liked.  At the time of release it was an Xbox 360 title and I just didn’t spend that much time playing my 360.  When it released on PC I had a furious few weekends of playing it again… and have wound up purchasing it as a gift for several people.  However I never really gave the game as much time as I would have liked because it was missing one core feature…  multiplayer.  This was the sort of world that I really wanted to go out and explore with my friends, and the absence of that option tarnished the experience for me.  What I am wanting from E3 is just more of everything and a firm release date on when we can expect the game.

Destiny 2

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I am just so damned ready for this game to release if we are being honest.  Right now I just want more.  I want more information, more game play footage…  and I am hoping their mic drop is that we can download and start playing the beta now.  I am not holding my breath, but that ultimately is what I want out of the experience.  I am already sold and have already pre-ordered the PS4 copy…  since the PC pre-orders are not open yet.  I want to know a firm date of when the PC is going to launch, because even if it is delayed I want to know how long of a wait.

Farcry 5

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This is probably the first Farcry game since the first that I am really excited about.  America as a whole has a really hard time confronting our own lunatic fringe or religious extremists.  Everything about this game seems like we are going to be fighting back against the madness of a weird religious cult of sorts.  I am ready to roam around the backwoods of Montana and take out bad people doing bad things.

Super Mario Odyssey

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They had me at “new mario game for switch” but what I am wanting is more details.  I want to know when exactly this is going to release because up until now we have only had some wild speculations as a “christmas season” launch.  I also want to know more about this real world/mario world fusion, and I am wondering if it is going to have tie ins to Super Mario Land in Universal Studios Japan.  Nintendo is generally the least forthcoming with the conferences as far as hard data goes…  but I really just want to know when this is going to launch.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

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We have not heard much from “Not-Castlevania” in awhile and I am hoping they have something to show off at E3.  Once again there is the common theme of me knowing a game is coming out… and just wanting some hard data on it.  I am a backer and have already played through the Demo game they released as a proof of concept several times… and now I am just ready for the full meal.  Everything I experienced to date was spot on with exactly how I wanted this game to feel…  they just need to push it across the finish line and not end up botching it in the process.

 

Like Its The End

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I am going through this really odd period with World of Warcraft.  My friend Grace and I had a conversation last night… and it feels like it is the end of an expansion.  I guess at this point in the last several expansions the game has been thoroughly in maintenance mode, and we were waiting with baited breath to see if someone announced anything about the expansion.  However in this case there is apparently still a good deal of content left to be released.  We’ve been told that we would be going to Argus, and the Tomb of Sargeras raid has not even opened…  so there are still big things looming on the horizon.  However the way I am approaching the game right now very much feels like what I do at the end of an expansion.  I am doing all manner of superfluous things that bring my pleasure.  For example during the Warlords of Draenor expansion you could not get me into Tanaan Jungle on a regular basis.  Once I got my flight… I disappeared from the zone almost entirely.  However lately I have been roaming around out there doing all manner of random stuff and attempting to farm Apexis Crystals.  Its like I suddenly decided that I really would like to get that Fel Raven mount that is available from there.  I’ve also started doing a bunch of achievements…  which is odd because generally speaking I am not an achievement driven person… at least not unless there is a mount or pet associated with it.

While I was roaming around Tanaan Jungle I suddenly decided that I wanted to kill the rares that I somehow missed along the way.  That lead to me getting the Jungle Hunter achievement for killing 25 different rares.  Then something inside of me was like…  why stop there…  and I looked up what the achievement was for killing everything.  Last night I sorted out how to get the last couple I was missing and wound up completing the Jungle Stalker achievement for killing all 60 different named rare mobs in Tanaan Jungle.  What is so weird about this is the fact that there is absolutely nothing in it for me…  no title, no mount, no pet…  none of the things I normally chase after.  I just suddenly decided I wanted to do it… and then did it because it was something that existed.  Now part of me wants to go around killing all of the named rare mobs in all of the different zones of Warlords…   and then maybe Pandaria as well.  Ultimately I have zero clue why this is suddenly compelling to me… because there are lots more productive uses of my time.  However World of Warcraft, especially running around older content is sort of the pinnacle of “comfort gaming”.  I have also been running a lot of older raids attempting to complete various cosmetic sets… that I will honestly probably never wear.  There is just something enjoyable at this very moment about checking things off of a list.

I often times have some of the most fun in World of Warcraft when the game is in the lull state at the end of an expansion.  I am in no rush to complete anything and not attempting to keep up with anyone else that happens to be progressing faster than I am.  I only casually care about raiding, or I have already completed the raid content and shift into a sort of permanently piddling mode of play.  Whatever the case it feels like I have generated this artificial bubble of lull, to where things really are not effecting me in any serious way.  Sure I am actually raiding again…  but doing so in a super casual manner and largely doing content that folks have on farm just for the sake of hanging out with my raider friends. Even though I know in the back of my head that we are going to continue getting a drip of content for awhile now…  I am largely okay pretending it is the end.  I seem to be able to play more freely and pull random goals out of the air and work towards them.  While it would be awesome to get some dungeoning in every now and then… I am happy with not feeling like I am letting someone down by not grinding seriously towards some long term objective.  I realize that as soon as Stormblood launches… I will be back in the rat race and trying to make sure I am as well geared as possible to be able to tackle all of the new content.  However for the moment I am enjoying this enhanced state of chill.

Destiny 2 Feels

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So yesterday was the big reveal of Destiny 2 gameplay and I have to say I am not disappointed in the least.  In fact at this very moment I am feeling inordinate amounts of Destiny love.  There were a few things that were released that gave me all the feels.  The first is the “Story of Zavala” trailer of sorts that tells the tale of how he came from being a corpse somewhere in the cosmodrome to being the leader of the Vanguard.  Unfortunately I have not seen this trailer released separately so you have to catch it about 14 mins into the video that I linked… which is the entire Destiny 2 reveal stream dumped to YouTube.  In that trailer you see a young Amanda Holliday getting her first look at a starship, so that in itself was completely priceless.  The second cavalcade of feels comes from the gameplay reveal trailer…  which appears to be cut from what is going to be one of the intro cinematics showing how the tower falls.  There is a moment in the trailer for each class where they get to shine…  and I absolutely got all the feels when I saw Zavala call everyone to him and raise a Titan bubble.  There are similar badass moments where Ikora Rey Nova Bombs a Cabal transport, and Cayde-6 Golden Gun’s three Cabal troopers.

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Destiny 2 is a tale of starting over after a monumental fall from grace, which in itself is probably the best way of dealing with a power reset scenario.  Having spent the last week playing through the Fallen Empire storyline in Star Wars the Old Republic… I absolute approve of the notion that sometimes you need to shuffle the deck to freshen up the game.  What I like the most about what I saw though is that everything looked and felt like it was still Destiny…  just with the Destiny-ness sliders moved all the way to eleven.  They reveal that we are going to four new places…  but in part I am hoping that given time we will also revisit areas that we have been to before.  The maps themselves are supposedly more open world style, or at least the one that was showed reminded me of something on the scale of the Hinterlands from Dragon Age: Inquisition with lots of active hotspots to go explore and find adventures.  This is definitely playing to my core desires as a player, but I am also hoping that it still has directed story missions for the folks like Tamrielo who tend to bounce super hard from “now go explore” setups in games.

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It sounds like all of the things that made Destiny awesome are coming back, but that they are adding a whole layer of new stuff on top.  To be truthful if you look at my characters stats… I have spent a significant number more hours doing patrol missions than literally anything else in the game.  Just as a reference according to my Profile on Bungie.net… on my Titan I have played a grand total of 14 days 15 hours… and of that time 7 days 4 hours was in Patrol mode.  So giving me a big open world to roam in is absolutely going to serve my interests.  However it sounds like the strikes and raids and crucible modes are all coming back with a vengeance with brand new concepts being introduced.  It also seems like some of the specs are being tweaked… and I am not sure if each class is getting a wholly new sub class or if we are just losing one and gaining one.  Titans for example I know have a Void class that revolves around wielding a shield like Captain America.  Warlocks have a new sub class that gives them flaming angel wings and lets them wield a giant flaming sword.  So I am not sure if those are in additional to the subs we already have… or if those are now replacing the Defender Titan and Sunsinger Warlock.  I mean I am hoping we get something new… but Defender was absolutely one of those sub classes that was super niche and extremely hard to complete “kill with elemental abilities” sort of bounties.

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The biggest news from yesterday is that the PC client would be going through Battle.net…  which is curiously being referred to as Battle.net and not the Blizzard Launcher.  I said before that I would likely never stop calling it Battle.net, and I am guessing maybe they have rethought that branding decision…  now that a non-Blizzard game is going to be using that infrastructure.  This decision has a lot of positives and as far as I am concerned fairly few negatives.  I’ve spent over a decade now cultivating a community inside of the Blizzard franchise games, and knowing that I can carry that ready made community into Destiny is going to be a huge bonus for me.  What Bungie is getting from PSN and XBL is an account system that takes care of all of the day to day friend maintenance and messaging functionality and lets them just connect up a game to it.  I mean the option  that we all probably through they would be taking was to integrate this game with Steam completely, and rely on steam users for profiles.  However to be honest, Blizzard does a far better job of policing its own network than Steam does, because quite frankly it is not in the interest of Valve to clamp down too harshly.  The only negative here about any of this is that it sounds like the PC client will not be available on day one… and will instead be a console launch only.  Ultimately I was going to buy  this on PS4 and PC anyways… so this is not a huge deal for me…  however it is going to suck for anyone who wants to hold out for the PC.

My dream that is likely to go unrealized is that I could have a single set of character spread across all of the platforms.  I am perfectly okay with purchasing a PC client, PS4 client, and Xbox One client…  and not necessarily being able to cross play between them.  However I would love if my characters which are attached to my Bungie account carried over and worked on each platform.  Let me play with my PC friends, PS4 friends and Xbox friends with the characters I have spent so much time building.  I mean I managed to get my Xbox One character up to 370 light…  but that feels pittiful compared to my stable of three 400 light characters on the PS4 side, each with access to a vault full of awesome stuff.  Compared to the 14 days on PSN… I have only played 21 hours of the Xbox One gameplay because not having all of my toys was always a major set back.  Since the characters are bound to the Bungie account… they could absolutely make this thing happen.  They just need the will to do so.  So I have hopes and dreams… but I am fully expecting them to get dashed in the long run.  At this point however I am just riding the hype train and so freaking ready for this game to come out.

Level Scaling Tech

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I am in this place with SWTOR Knights of the Fallen Empire where I am honestly not sure what more I can say without my blog turning into a massive spoiler fest.  There are a lot of events going on and many of them have surprised me.  This is a little shocking given that I consume a lot of gaming media and that KotFE has been technically out since October 2015.  I am not sure if I purposefully ignored SWTOR articles… or if I just didn’t come across that many.  Whatever the case essentially everything from Shadows of Revan onward has been a completely new story experience for me without me knowing any of the elements ahead of time.  So while I recognized characters like Theron Shan or Lana Beniko…  I knew nothing about them going into this recent binge of playing the game.  We’ve talked about this on the podcast before, but returning to an MMO and seeing years worth of content laid out in front of you is a pretty great thing.  Especially in a situation like SWTOR where they have a reasonable level scaling system.

Yesterday Syp posted something over on his personal blog Bio Break talking about level scaling systems.  His specific discussion centered around whether or not level scaling systems were good for games, which was brought on by his recent journeys in LOTRO.  Over time my own feelings about the systems have changed.  You can scan through the backlog of this blog and find me talking about Mentoring systems, where games allow high level player A to drop down to the level of player B and run content with them.  This seemed to me like the most elegant solution to the problem of being able to run content with your friends.  That was until I encountered Guild Wars 2, and the fact that no matter where you go your character is scaled down to the level of the world.  The concept of evergreen content is a big one for me… because I like when a game expands over time rather than contracts.  While Guild Wars 2 is not the best example of this… because of the fact that there is plenty of content that you will never be able to play again in that game…  it did make me appreciate level scaling as a replacement for mentoring.

The only problem there is that when the world is constantly the same level as you, it robs you of one of the quintessential MMO experiences of leveling up and becoming more powerful.  The world always feels the same to you, because you are functionally always the same relative ability levels to it as you level.  In situations like that the levels themselves feel like a completely extraneous concept.  Why even have a number that goes up if the world is always going to be functionally the same difficulty.  When we started playing Final Fantasy XIV they had an extremely elegant solution for this in the form of their dungeon finder.  Each dungeon had a functional level range from the moment you first were able to zone in… to the moment that it considered was the upper bound of levels.  So if the average mob level in an area was 35, then functionally the maximum level the game would allow you to be was 40, scaling everyone over that level down to that point.  The only negative here is that this ONLY applies to dungeons, and in truth it would have been interesting to see this same sort of system just work out in the world as a whole.

That I guess is functionally what is going on in Star Wars the Old Republic, and I am loving it.  Each piece of content be it planet, flashpoint, or something else… has a functional level range attached to it.  Once again it is functionally along the lines of being five or so levels over whatever the maximum level of encounter for that area.  Then the game rewards you as though you were fighting something your own level in terms of both experience and loot drops.  This means that you can go anywhere and do anything without feeling like you are getting nothing from it.  At launch this was absolutely a problem with SWTOR and it was extremely easy to out level an area, and reach a point where the experience gain was no longer worth the time you spent on a planet.  This was especially true as I remember on Tatooine which in itself was a huge planet with lots of side content.  By the time I “did everything” I ended up several levels ahead of the curve and functionally kept getting more and more over-leveled as I went through the rest of the planets.

Now there is a certain measure of freedom in being able to just go and do the content without having to worry about level… and in many cases gear.  While leveling my Imperial Agent, there were a few points where I went 10 levels without upgrading any of my gear… and really did not notice a significant amount of power drop off.  Then again I did exit the class storyline at level 58… so there was some significant over-leveling going on there that might have been easing the transition.  The thing with this system is however that while you are gaining power and you FEEL powerful… there is never a point where you are just waltzing through  field of enemies gently tapping them and watching them explode.  When you run someone through a low level dungeon in World of Warcraft for example on your level capped main… you can functionally breathe on mobs and they impale themselves in a shower of loot.  SWTOR feels like a happy medium, of letting your power level increase without completely trivializing the game.  Sure most of the time I am not actually afraid of death, but I still feel heroic doing content…  because I am having to use my abilities to take things down rather than a single auto swing.  As a result I have somewhat shifted my focus from user driven mentoring systems…  to seeing more games adopt this sort of level scaling.  The best part about Legion honestly was the way that content has scaled to the player while leveling through it, and if only Blizzard had applied this tech to the world as a whole… it would be a much more enjoyable experience.  I like knowing that I can revisit those areas that I enjoyed so much in the past, and still having an interesting time.

 

Netflix and Turtle

Yesterday when I wrote my post I was deeply looking forward to the Tuesday night FFXIV shenanigans.  However as the day went on things went sideways.  Its not so much that a sequence of bad events happened…  but more a sequence of events that robbed me of every single “spoon” I had to give.  I am very much a person who recharges my batteries by milling around by myself doing piddly things.  Each social engagement, even if it is just saying good morning to the security guard on my way in the building…  consumes a bit of energy that I have stored up in reserve.  Now that I am in management… it feels like those batteries deplete all too quickly flitting between meetings and making sure my team is taken care of.  One might question if management is really a great choice, but in truth it is one of those things that just sort of happened over time. I never set out to lead a guild, it just was something that I did because it needed to happen.  Similarly I fell into my current position because it just needed to happened, and the alternative was to hope someone else did it.

As a result I came home last night, cooked some dinner… and by the time I had cleaned and sat down on the couch I completely lost sync with time as a construct.  So at 8:30 I found myself apologizing to the FFXIV crew for needing some “turtle time” where I pull my head into my shell and pretend the world doesn’t exist.  I feel like this has to suck to experience from the other side of the equation, because I don’t always know when it is going to hit or what the ramifications are going to be.  All I know is when it does I just cannot deal with communicating with other people.  I have friends who experience the same sort of thing, and it is at least comforting that I am not the only person who goes through it every so often.  The only problem is the more I do it… the harder it is to break out of the cycle.  It reminds me in the days of this blog before I went on the whole crusade of regular posting.  The longer I went between posts… the harder it was to make the next one because it felt like this invisible audience was somehow expecting me to poop sheer brilliance out on the page every time I posted anything.  Similarly it feels like each time I withdraw, I have to psyche myself up to be some sort of rockstar version of myself to make up for the fact that I was in hiding.  I mean I know that is not actually the case, but it is super hard to explain that to anxiety brain.

What did I do instead last night?  Well I spent some quality time with Netflix… and tried to chill out and remember that everything is okay.  Over the last couple days I have watched the first episode of American Gods…  which makes me realize how damned long it has been since I read that book.  Things felt familiar in a fuzzy melange of the details I sort of remember about the book, so I guess that is a good thing.  I also watched Maria Bamford’s Old Baby…  which was delightfully bizarre.  I mean I suggest it, but you need to go in expecting it to not really be like any other comedy special you have ever seen.  I watched a handful of episodes of Dear White People, which I really enjoyed on a bunch of different levels.  Finally I finished the night watching the three available episodes of Handmaid’s Tale that were on Hulu.  The last one I am not sure if you can actually enjoy… because it is fucking disturbing.  I am hooked but on a stomach turning level…  I mean for whatever reason I never read the novel, and I think I probably should.  Probably not the best thing for an anxiety riddled mind, but I am glad that I watched it.

 

Taris is Horrible

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This weekend we went through some insane weather.  Namely just torrential amounts of rain and constant wind.  Thankfully the only “damage” is the fact that our outdoor furniture got strewn about mercilessly.  Last week we had a leak in the living room, on one of the days we were getting some horizontal rain.  Thankfully the roofer was able to come out Wednesday, and while he didn’t see any smoking guns…  he did notice that our flashing was raised.  After tamping back down and re-caulking everything, it seems to have worked because we more or less made it through the weekend without any more water slowly dripping down from the beam running across the room.  So far so good…  and while I am joking with the image above I am thankful that nothing bad really happened.  I know within an hour and a half of the house there was some massive flooding that for the most part caused houses to disappear in the rising waters.  Even within my own town while I drove around on Saturday and Sunday there was a significant amount of flood happening in small pockets.  The only thing that really seemed to take on water was a little bit seeping into the garage underneath the garage door.  Our front lawn however looked like an archipelago…  with lots and lots of standing water.

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As far as gaming went I spent a significant amount of time snuggled up on the sofa in a fuzzy blanket playing Star Wars the Old Republic on my laptop.  I am going through what always feels like the rough patch empire side, which is Taris to Hoth.  No matter what game you play it…  Taris is a shithole.  I mean it is less horrible when you are visiting it at night like you do during the empire campaign…  but it is still horrible.  Similarly Hoth is this giant bluewhite wasteland with music that seems to put me to sleep in a way that only snowcloak can.  As a result I am just trying to stay focused on the end goal, which is finishing up this class and getting on to other things.  The positive however is that the Imperial Agent storyline just keeps getting more interesting, which is shockingly not something I expected.  I don’t really go for the whole espionage thing, and while I found bond movies interesting as a child…  it was never really a life goal.  Whatever the case however I am finding myself drawn into the story, at the very least enough to keep moving forward.  I am however looking forward to taking a break tonight to get some Final Fantasy XIV friendtime in before returning once more to the story grind.

Generations are Weird

This is absolutely not a topic I would have chosen for myself, but it is one that has been swimming around in my brain since last night.  Last night my good friend Liore posted an article called “F*ck You, I’m Not Millennial” from Huffington Post.  I initially braced myself for yet another “Millennial Bash” article, but what I found was something that articulated the general sense of confusion I have felt my entire life.  Generations are an odd construct, and it could be argued that they don’t exist.  However there are significant differences between mindsets and outlooks every so often.  I think vastly different than my parents or boss who are firmly planted in the Baby Boom era.  My parents thought vastly different than my grand parents who were the children of the Great Depression.  I was born in 1976 which lets me claim the late 70s, entire 80s, and early 90s…  as my formative years.  So I have various traits of folks who grew up in all of those…  and not an entire matched set of any specific generational stripe.

In part I blame the internet and computers for shifting my focus on what I found important in life.  In High School I remember having to make an appointment at a big library an hour away to use the internet for a research paper…  which then largely involved WAIS and Gopher searches to find information to then download and print out.  Years later I met my wife over IRC and while we grew up 30 mins apart…  were introduced by a mutual friend living in Belgium.  So I largely grew up just accepting the fact that I was yet another Generation X member, even though I didn’t necessarily feel like I had all of the traits of Generation X.  According to the “sanity” version of the timeline in the Article above…  I am instead the first year of Generation Y, which is the generation that demographers largely forgot they spawned.  That break out honestly makes a lot more sense to me for a lot of reasons.  Firstly while my first console experience was Pong…. and we had an Atari that I remember fondly…  my gaming formative years were absolutely on the battleground of the Nintendo Entertainment System that I got in late elementary/early middle school.  So calling us the Nintendo generation seems fitting for a whole slew of reasons.

I still largely feel like I am out of sync with the generational construct.  Growing up I consistently hung out with folks way older than I was, and now that I am an adult thanks to the magic of the internet I tend to skew the opposite direction.  A large chunk of my friends are in their late 20s to mid 30s…  so while I feel like I definitely do not always see eye to eye with them…  I can at least understand their thought processes.  As a result I think my generation more than anything is a translation layer between what came before me, and what comes after me.  There are so many times at work I get pulled into discussions to do just this… and somehow explain to the Baby Boomer management what exactly the Millennial generation is saying or meaning.  Generations are this sort of social shorthand for trying to identify significant differences in the way groups of people were raised.  The problem with this is that I think the number of differences are accelerating, and before long there will really be no meaningful generational breaks.

Growing up when I did more or less in the 80s…  most families were fairly similar.  There were a lot of specific cultural touchstones brought on by the fact that we more or less had three channels of television to watch at a given time.  However as I aged everything was a sense of constant change… we went from records to cassettes to the Walkman to the CD to mini disc and finally ending up with the MP3…  and now streaming music services.  Media and entertainment was a moving target, that kept changing…. so we just accepted this as normal.  I remember I was a late adopter of the CD largely because I could purchase 2 cassette tapes for the price of 1 CD…  and that allowed me to get more music into my life.  There was also an element of scarcity in everything because I grew up in a town of 2500 people…  deep in flyover country.  To find any store not deeply constrained by limited stock, I had to travel roughly an hour to the south.  As a result we did a lot of experimenting and enjoying whatever the hell was available…  which lead to some extremely eclectic tastes pulled from the clearance bin at the mall.

Events felt larger and more homogeneous.  Everyone watched the Oscars because there was nothing better to do…  same goes for every awards show or movie of the week.  You could go to school the next day and it was pretty certain that everyone would be talking about the same things…  because there were a limited number of things actually happening on any given day.  Now other than shared interests…  I don’t have a clue one what is going on in most peoples lives unless I am intimately aware of the details.  To give the example above…  I’ve not watched an awards show or even really had one playing in the background as I did other things for at least a decade… probably pushing two.  The internet gave me access to so many better ways to spend my times, and as I grew up… it grew up too.  My first internet experiences were like many on AOL, but after racking up a $250 phone bill calling the next city over… that door slammed shut pretty fast.  It wasn’t until 93 / 94 ish when I got proper unlimited internet…  which involved a contorted system to actually get access.  I had to pay $20 a month to the phone company to make the next town over a “local call”, and then $40 a month to Galaxy Star Systems…  a budding regional ISP to get unlimited internet access at blazing 96000 baud dial up speeds.  So a grand total of $60 a month…  but it gave me doorways into completely different worlds.

I think in part this feeling of being an “Internet Pioneer” is what always drives me to keep trying new things.  It almost seems as though it is my duty to be the beta tester for everything that comes down the pipe since I have seen and experienced so much of what came before.  This feeling however I think is also what makes me feel out of phase with whatever generational boundaries I am supposed to be feeling.  My world has been one of managing change and figuring out how to deal with it.  I will claim that I do not like change at all… but when it happens I am generally the first to roll with the punches and sort out what the new normal is going to look like.  Maybe this is bombastic of me… but I would like to think of myself as being part of some Cipher generation… that uses our weird irregular experiences to help bridge the gaps between these other more traditional generations.  So while I might not understand the way a Baby Boomer thinks…  I can at least translate what I am saying in a way that is going to land and resonate with them.  I mean I do this as a job anyways…  translating deeply technical terms into a sequence of metaphors and easy to digest chunks that the business can understand.  Maybe I just always did this… and maybe the properties of whatever generation I happen to be really part of is a chameleon like sense of adaptability.  The only real normal we have ever experienced for any length of time… is change.

Eight Years of Aggronaut

You would think that over time I would get considerably better at doing this sort of thing, but in truth I still struggle to find inspiration on a regular basis.  This is a little funny considering that as of this morning I have been writing on Tales of the Aggronaut for eight years.  Last year there was an awful lot of pomp around the seventh anniversary, and I even got my good friend Ammo to do some artwork for the site as a result.  The problem with doing anything for eight years, is that after awhile you start to question if you are just simply repeating yourself in cycles.  I cannot tell you the number of times I sit down to write a post… and then have to google my own blog to see if I have actually already written this post before somewhere in the past.  In truth I have a sort of amnesia when it comes to writing things on this blog.  I sit down each morning and bang out a post, pouring my thoughts into each post…  and then as soon as I hit post the memory of having written it just sort of floats away.  I question sometimes if this blog is more therapy than exposition, because at this point I am not entirely certain I could really stop writing.  This is now a part of me and ingrained that I need to sit down each morning and attempt to say something meaningful.

This year saw me dialing things back a little however and breaking my daily blogging routine and shifting up the format to be weekly posts.  In truth this has been something extremely positive for me as a writer and a human being.  It gives me the weekend to simply not have to think about what I should and should not be writing about.  Sunday had been a hellacious day for me especially considering I got up and finished editing and prepping the AggroChat episode that we recorded the night before.  Then as soon as I wrapped that up I realistically needed to sit down and write a blog post before I was officially “free” to do anything.  This also made planning anything on the weekends rough given that I was already claiming from 9 pm onward on Saturday night…  then again functionally claiming an hour or two each morning.  Then if we needed to travel I had to either drag a laptop with me on our travels and do the upside down day thing…  or stage enough posts to cover the time away from home.  There was something ultimately liberating when it came to breaking the pattern.  So much of why I had been pushing myself was simply to make sure that I never dropped any of the plates that were spinning in the air, and once I allowed the first place to drop…  it became a lot easier to allow myself time off when I simply was not ready to make a post.  It also allows me to shift the format around a bit, so that if we take a vacation I can actually enjoy said vacation.  For example I didn’t make posts from Pax South this year… or over Spring Break when we roamed Dallas hitting all of the Half Priced Books.  The world seemed to manage just fine without me, and folks more or less have continued reading in spite of my occasionally dropping a post.

Part of the tyranny of the pattern is the fact that I felt like I became more known for the fact that I was doing the daily posting thing…  than anything I might have actually been writing about.  That said I have readers that have been around…  sometimes begrudgingly the entire eight years so in truth this was probably just anxiety brain being horrible.  The truth is that I still do not know why anyone reads this blog, and I am consistently baffled by the analytics.  That said I also feel like I am on this shared journey with all of you.  We are doing this together, even if you have never actually commented on the blog in the past.  It feels like I always have a friend there to tell the tales of my adventures and foibles to, and as a result I always strive to make this a much more intimate experience.  I let each and every one of you inside my mind from time to time to share my thoughts and feelings… and sometimes write more about “stuff” than I do gaming.  I thank you all for being there, and even if you are just standing in the background lurking…  the fact that you are there is important to me personally.  I don’t want to be a “brand” or try and turn this blog into some sort of vehicle for self promotion.  I just want it to be a shared experience of taking you all along with me as I do things.  So in the end I am thankful for each and every person that has decided to come along for the ride.

The funny thing about April is that for me it is apparently a time of new beginnings.  I started Tales of the Aggronaut on April 17th of 2009, because I was inspired by some of the World of Warcraft blogs that I had been reading.  In truth it was a single blog called the Wordy Warrior, by Aeridel that ultimately tipped me to the side of writing my own thing.  Sadly like so many blogs it is lost to the mists of time, but she went on to now be one of the amazing social media managers for World of Warcraft.  In 2013 when I felt like I needed to restart things with the blog, I opted to start the “Grand Experiment” and go from having several month long breaks in blog posts…  to blogging every single morning.  It was a bit of a swift kick in the ass, and it was something that I needed to gain the confidence to just sit down at a keyboard and start writing without being super concerned about creating greatness every single day.  I stuck with this for a little over three years before ultimately dialing it back for my own sanity.  In addition I am realizing that the very first AggroChat podcast episode was on April 13th… something we probably should have mentioned in this past weeks show.  So it seems like for me at least April is just this month where I hatch new ideas and make them into something tangible.  As a result I have one such idea that has been incubating in my head, I just need to find the time…  and volunteers to bring it to fruition.

In eight years of blogging I have written a little over 1500 blog posts, 1519 to be exact if I believe WordPress.  During that time I have had 128,828 unique readers from 186 different countries.  While English is not shockingly the top language group hitting the blog… French and German have a pretty large share of the numbers as well.  My heaviest usage day was apparently November 2nd 2015, when Marvel Heroes reposted one of my blogs on both Facebook and Twitter.  All of this is largely nonsensical to me because I still cannot fathom why anyone would actually care about my thoughts.  I am not really a big blog, and I don’t really have this massive audience…  but what I seemingly do have is a group of folks who are extremely devoted to whatever this experience is.  I’ve said it before and I still think its true.  There are really two types of readers out there regardless of whatever platform you happen to be posting on.  There are the folks who are interested in a specific topic and your blog just happens to be drift compatible with those goals.  However if you ever decide to shift focus, they can easily weed you out of their feed reader because it no longer meets their parameters.  Then there are the folks who have somewhere along the way imprinted upon you, and probably arrived originally because your interests were similar…  but ended up sticking around because they decided that they cared about you as a human being.  The later group is really the folks that are here for the long haul because over these past eight years I have bounced around like crazy.  So while this started as a “Warrior Tanking” blog and went through “Raiding Blog”, “General WoW Blog”, and “Rift Blog” phases…  what exists today is just “Bel Says Things”.  If you aren’t interested in that then you probably aren’t going to be around for long.  Regardless I am deeply humbled that I seemingly have so many people interested in that proposal, and I will try really hard to “not fuck this up” in the process.