Third Party Screenshot Tools

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Last night was the night we go out and do things in Final Fantasy XIV, but for a period of time before and after the events I got in some Mass Effect Andromeda.  There are still aspects of the game that I really do love, and aspects that I am really struggling to cope with.  I am trying really hard to come up with a headcanon that the 600 year cryo sleep has given pretty much everyone partial facial paralysis… because wow… just wow.  It is fine more or less when dealing with the normal ins and outs of missions… but when you take a romantic option you tread on some seriously painful uncanny valley territory.  I am hoping we get later patches that adjust this, because it is mostly a distraction from what is otherwise a pretty solid game.  I am having some weirdness with Ryder as well because I keep forgetting he isn’t Shepard.  I mean I am playing a Mass Effect game and dealing with weird elder god robotic space magic stuff…  and I am trying to approach the game as though I were my version of Shepard and it isn’t quite working out that way.  Maybe over time I will stop doing this, but for now Ryder is very much “Not-Shepard” for me and doesn’t have much of an identity of his own.  I get what they are trying to do with this game, but so far it feels like a pair of jeans that doesn’t quite fit right anymore but you are still trying to wear them.  There is so much love and nostalgia for those “jeans”, but its a struggle to keep them pulled up and keep from mooning everyone.

Now the weirdest thing about this game so far is that no one seems to be able to find the screenshot key?  I did some research last night and folks seemed to indicate it was F11…  however that did not actually work for me.  A second search this morning indicates that no… the game does not actually have a built in screenshot functionality and is relying on you to use some sort of a third party solution.  I have personally used FRAPS for the better part of a decade, and especially when I started doing the daily blogging thing I needed the ability to have a predictable place where all of my screenshots would be.  I’ve talked about this before but all of my screenshots get dumped into a single directory on each machine that I play games on… and then I pull those screenshots off onto network attached storage to sort into a Genre>Game directory structure for long term storage.  Basically when I write my morning posts… I am still waking up and I really need to make things as easy on myself as humanly possible.  Trying to remember what the hell the screenshot directory for this or that game is at 5:30 in the morning is not something I excel at.  Knowing that any recent shots are going to be in G:\Gameshots is much much easier, and with Windows 10 showing off recently used directories… it is also almost always easily available.  FRAPS unfortunately costs money, and is outdated… and at this point is not the most amazing thing in the world…  but it is extremely reliable and seems to be willing to take screenshots of anything.  It does have the nice side effect of having a one time fee of $37… and then lifetime free updates.  It feels sort of dirty that I had to point that out as a positive… because that used to be the way all software worked.  I thought however I would cover a few other options that are “Not-FRAPS”.

GeForce Experience

This is probably the secondary go to for me, and with the introduction of Ansel technology I am contemplating making the switch myself.  If you have a somewhat modern video card, it is almost certain to support ShadowPlay (gtx 650 or higher).  GeForce Experience is the weird software that exposes this functionality, and also gives you some performance tweaking options.  If you just want the ability to play games without having to fiddle with settings, you can launch the game once and then have Experience optimize the settings.  In all cases the game will be playable…  but I have found the software pretty conservative on quality settings especially if you are running in a generationally mismatched environment of an older CPU and newer Video Card.  However for the sake of screenshots you can toggle on share options, which gives you access to set screenshot functionality.  The reason why I am not already using this however is that there is no functionality for remapping your screenshot hotkey.

GeForce Experience Website

AMD Gaming Evolved

If you are on the Red team side of the house they have the AMD Gaming Evolved app… which you need to understand is just Raptr.  At some point they either bought them or struck a deal with them… but installing the AMD tool is functionally installing a beefed up version of the Raptr gaming social media thing.  It however offers screen shot functionality, but having not used this in years I cannot comment on how functional it is.

Raptr AMD Gaming Evolved Website

MSI Afterburner

Afterburner is a piece of software that has been around since the early days of PC Video Cards.  In fact it was originally called RIVATuner if I am remembering correctly, that specifically relates to the Riva series of Nvidia cards from the late 90s.  This is the go to software for overclocking, but it also has a bunch of packed in functionality…  one of which is the ability to snap screenshots and record video clips.  It is fairly light weight and just runs quietly in the background allowing you to take screenshots at will.  My only suggestion here is to make sure you don’t fiddle with any of the settings that you are not comfortable with.  You can absolutely crash your machine if you start playing with the sliders.  The fact that it is “MSI” branded really should not throw you off, because they simply maintain the software these days and it still works for every brand of video card.

MSI Afterburner Website

Windows 10 Game DVR

Included as part of the Windows 10 installation is the Xbox app, which among other things exposes something called the Game DVR.  This does some things that are good and some things that are not so good.  The not so good is that it will start recording gameplay footage, in a rolling loop of the last X minutes which is configurable.  The idea being that it gives you easy access to snag clips of gameplay footage AFTER it happens.  This also means that your system will be effectively recording video all of the time, and a certain bit of diskspace will simply just be lost to this process.  The positive is that it allows you to also set up a screenshot keybind without installing any additional software.  I’ve noticed a decent performance hit while this option is turned on, so this is largely why I do not personally choose to use it.  It is however there so I thought I would cover it as an option.

Windows 10 Game DVR Adjustment Settings

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In a similar “gaming DVR” camp is Forge which should be mentioned.  This is software that essentially allows you to broadcast your gameplay and after a session trim clips from it to save to the Forge website.  One of the options is to take still frames from this DVR footage, which also seemed a bit more contorted than I really wanted it to be for just taking screenshots.  However there are a ton of people that love the software, and the ability to stream without needing to do much of anything special.  I am throwing it out there because it technically can take decent screenshots, but it functions so vastly differently than what I want a screenshot software to function like.

Forge.gg Website

These are just a few options that I can think off off the top of my head at 6 in the morning.  There are countless other pieces of software that do some version of this functionality.  I continue to use FRAPs largely because it works like  want it to work, and doesn’t seem to consume much in the way of system resources.  It is also extremely reliably…  several other options I have tried in the past like DxTory or Greenshot have both created situations where I thought I was taking a screenshot… and ended up with either nothing, black screens, or pictures of my desktop icons.  While I absolutely can talk at length about the virtues of using some form of third party screenshot software… and having a filing system for said screenshots…  I can’t really push one piece of software over another.  You are ultimately going to need to try a bunch of them and find the one that seems to work with your gaming style.  Any of the ones I mentioned save for maybe Forge is going to probably function exactly how you want.

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Adventures

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Today marks the first day back from a bit of a vacation.  As a result I must apologize for failing completely to write anything Friday.  I had every intent of making it an upside down day where I blog in the evening, however after getting home Friday night that just sort of evaporated.  I am leading the post off with a Mass Effect Andromeda screenshot, but I admit this is a little bit of bait and switch given that I am probably not going to be writing about that game at all until tomorrow morning.  Instead this morning I am going to talk about my adventures.  For the wife it has been spring break, and generally speaking we attempt to do something during that time.  When we traveled through Dallas on the way home from Pax South in January, we realized it had been a significant amount of time since we just went to the Metro for the sake of going there.  Another thing you need to know about us, is that we are die hard Half Priced Books fans… and for those not indoctrinated into that chain of book stores please click through this link and join the cult.  To call it a used book store is a bit of a disservice to just how many cool things they tend to have and how many genres they cross.  The only problem is there are none in the Tulsa metro area, however we regularly make a trip down the turnpike to Oklahoma City and hit the three that are located there.  Additionally any time we travel we see if there are any in the nearby area that we can either hit on the way there or on the way home.  As a result we have explored many in the Kansas City, St Louis, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Madison areas, and a few singlets we have found along the way.

Similarly I also love Micro Center and Fry’s Electronics… but we have neither of those chains.  I make an attempt to hit them any time I am in the vicinity, so combing those two goals we had this idea of trying to hit as many stores as we could.  What we did not figure in is just how damned big the Metro is, and how much time we would lose simply in travelling.  Additionally we threw in a trip to IKEA which is always a must, and Container Store…  as well as a slew of Target and Walmart stores to hunt for interesting clearance.  The end result is that over the course of what was functionally a day and a half in the Metro we hit I believe 10 Half Priced Book Stores, 2 Fry’s, the single solitary Micro center, IKEA and one of the several Container Stores.  The last we largely manages to catch because there happened to be one across the street from the In and Out burger we stopped at for lunch on Friday.  As far as eating establishments, we managed to hit Fuzzy’s Tacos for lunch on Thursday and an apparent local chain called Snuffers for dinner that night as well as the previously mentioned In and Out.  As far as wandering… my wife and I are extremely “drift compatible” when it comes to exploring new areas.  The only problem is… we did not even touch the Forth Worth area stores because we did not always take the most optimum routes.  That is one thing I really want… the ability to throw a bunch of points on a map and have google plot the most optimal course to hit all of them.  We also did not exactly stay in the most optimal location either… with me picking a random hotel in Richardson with quite possibly the most uncomfortable beds I have ever slept in.  All in all however it was fun trip, and as is always the case I took some photos of things that I found interesting…  which is more than likely going to be the bulk of the rest of this post.

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At one of the HPB stores, I found a copy of Magic the Gathering Arena… which in itself was not that big of a deal.  However what was interesting is that in the back of the book nobody had detached and sent in the coupon for the free card.  I’ve mangled a triptych of images here so you can see the book cover, the coupon as well as the card that you would have gotten had you turned in it.  I believe I have this card laying around somewhere, because while the book was pretty crummy…  at the time I was absolutely after any card I could get my hands on.

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Another interesting find is some Blizzard Noobz figures circa Blizzcon 2009.  They had the Murloc, Undead, and Ragnaros but sadly had none of the Jim Raynor which is probably the coolest of the set.  I ended up picking up the Ragnaros because I always liked that one as well.  I was just sort of shocked to see them still in the wild… and even more so that they had been marked down to $5.

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In the straight up odd department, at IKEA I found this interesting “hanging dryer” as the sign said.  Some googling tells me that this is extremely popular with the “cloth diaper” community.  Whatever the case… it is an adorable octopoid hanger and was worth taking a photo of.

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Finally in the just straight up weird category… one of the various stores I hit had a Daryl Dixon Funko Pop… that was literally the size of someones head.  I was trying to figure out what I could hold up for scale… and wound up using my hand but that may or may not be useful given that my hands are also huge.  You can however see a normal pop box on the shelf below for a potentially better reference.

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In the realm of “Bel has lost his damned mind” another happening over the extended four day weekend… is that I decided to shave back down to a mustache/goatee combo.  I just felt like I needed a change for awhile after doing a perfect impression of Hagrid for the better part of the last few years.   This photo was snapped while recording AggroChat because my co-hosts could not believe that I actually did it, so that is why you get garbage lighting conditions and a microphone in my face.

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Finally we wrapped the weekend with officially opening our back yard for the spring.  This means that my wife and I spent most of Saturday afternoon collecting leaves, spraying for weeds…  and applying a copious amount of fungicide to our very tree-like red tipped photinias.  The best part of this is of course that our patio just off the bedroom is now open for business, and my wife spent most of Sunday out there grading in the shade of our balcony.  Tonight I need to drag all ten bags of assorted yard debris around to the curb so that the trash service can pick them up on Tuesday.  The way our town works, is that we have to use these rather expensive bags that have the city name printed all over them, which in turn get filtered off into a green waste system.  The alternative was to buy a second trash bin, but that also limits you to only having a fixed amount each week.  This way we can clean the yard whenever we get the desire to do so and simply pay for bags.  Whatever the case the yard is open once more… and I’ve already gotten several birds coming to check out the feeder.  Yesterday we had a couple of gorgeous cardinals and a pair of blue jays, and it seems like the nesting pairs of turtles doves are back as well.  Now I just need to find me a switch so I can hang out on the back patio and play in style.

Evil Forces

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This morning I am using a screenshot completely unrelated to anything that I am going to talk about just because I thought it looked cool.  Last night was that night we dread all year long…  the night we attempt to deal with Taxes.  Tax Season is sort of the boogie man for adults, with the IRS being the grim harbingers of our impending doom.  The truth is we have never really run into major issues with Taxes, and in spite of this…  I still get almost physically ill when I think about dealing with them.  We have our taxes done, because there is something about having the piece of mind that someone is obligated by contract to come defend you if you ever get audited…  and at least somewhat financially responsible if something bad comes up.  I realize in the internet age I should be able to deal with my own taxes rather easily… but it is just more comforting to hurl a stack of papers at someone else… flail my arms and expect them to make it all make sense.  Over the years we have gotten mildly better at getting our shit together, and have started a system that involves cramming everything that looks even vaguely tax related into a manila envelope.  For the most part this year… we were able to pull things together easy enough with only minimal last minute scramble to try and sort out the last few documents that we were missing.  The truth…  the fact that we did this pulling together act on a day other than the day we had our tax appointment… is a huge positive for us.  Traditionally right up until the very moment we are supposed to go we are flying through the house rooting through piles of paperwork looking for a golden ticket…  or in our case that receipt from some charitable giving.

The thing that always screws us over in the end, is the fact that we functionally have to pay taxes in two different states.  During the summer my wife works as an AP test grader…  which always occurs in another state and counts as income for said state.  So that means in the next few weeks we are going to have to do the whole money order/certified check thing… and get the stupid slip of paper mailed off to this other state and hope beyond hope that it gets there.  We are fine in the long run, having to pay both states as is usually the case and getting back some from federal so it works out in the end.  But I cannot explain how fundamental and deep to my very core this sense of panic is that I feel when we start discussing taxes.  I am wondering if this is just a me thing, or if literally everyone goes through this yearly hell.  Its like so rarely do you really actually have to confront a cold force that can literally ruin you… in quite the same fashion as the IRS could.  All of it seems to be buried in arcane formula, and calculations that only software actually understands… that feels like it could very well add up and say that you owe everything you have.  There are certain aspects of life that make complete and total sense to me… but the Tax code will never be one of them.  So instead we live in this state of augmented anxiety until finally we gather the courage…  or it gets late enough that we absolutely have to deal with them.

Then when they are over… there is this crashing wave of euphoria.  Like we just survived the fight of our lives and came out with most of our limbs intact.  So instead of heading home we went out to eat, to celebrate our victory.  Its like going home didn’t make sense after the epic battle we just survived.  So instead we went to one of our regular rotation of Mexican restaurants where I had a glorious feast of chicken, cheese and chorizo.  I am supremely disappointed in whoever coded the spell checker built into Windows because I am seeing a red squiggly line over chorizo… the most glorious of meats.  After dinner we wound up needing to make a quick trip to Walmart…  which for us is a once in a month occurrence because our local store is completely crazy.  After wandering around and looking for what we actually came for, we exited thirty to forty minutes later.  So by the time I fed the animals and changed into my comfy flannel pants…  I wound up getting home about an hour late for the Final Fantasy XIV raid night.  I had talked during the day about wanting to make an attempt on Diadem and they did in fact seem to be able to pull together the people for that.  Some folks even got some of the tasty 265 gear…. but not for the classes they were actually playing.  Final Fantasy XIV really needs to give us the ability to trade gear among a fixed party.  I wound up tagging in after Diadem for Thordan Extreme, of which we sort of figured out at least the first few phases of that dance.  It is going to be one of those fights where we simply have to memorize the pattern and make sure everyone makes it through each phase shift alive.  More than anything though… I am happy to have slain the tax beast at least for this one season.

Garula Is Mad

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Tonight I am sitting down to knock out a blog post because in the morning I will be interrupting my routine.  Tomorrow night my wife and I will be going to see the a stage production of the Wizard of Oz and it is going to simply be much handier to have a single vehicle.  However this also means that I have to get up and out the door considerably earlier than I normally would.  On an average day I leave the house around 7 and tomorrow that deadline is getting pushed up before 6:30.  There is no way I can get showered and ready and write a blog post all within that time frame so you are getting something tonight.  I was a bit all of the place putting time in Final Fantasy XIV, Horizon Zero Dawn and Final Fantasy XV.  All of them were enjoyable in their own way but much like last night…  I was never fully committed to any of them.  I think I am trying to come down with something, because I have just felt drained and hollow at the end of the day.

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The highlight of the night however was hanging out on Spiral/Weiward’s Twitch channel as she played Final Fantasy V.  The entire AggroChat crew has a very specific relationship with Final Fantasy V.  The game I believe is among Ash’s favorites in the series, and as a result we get roped into participating in the Four Job Fiesta every year.  I’ve talked about the charity event numerous times, but the roots are that you play Final Fantasy V with only a randomly chosen set of jobs.  The truth is I have never actually played Final Fantasy V legitimately, having only beaten it while doing the Fiesta.  That said it was super interesting to watch Spiral struggle with some of the same things we have all struggled with in confronting this game.  The best part of the night however is when she started having the same realizations that a lot of us have… about the deep connections between a lot of the Final Fantasy XIV Heavenward content and characters and settings from V.  You can be absolutely certain that when the Fiesta time comes around again, we will be pestering Spiral to join in the fun.

Many Games! Handle It!

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Last night was a bit of an odd one, in that I did not get out of work until after 6 pm and did not get home until almost 7 pm.  The series of meetings that I have been thrust into on Wednesday nights has been a thing, and there seems to be no end to them in the near future.  By the time I finally got home I was feeling fairly lousy, and after fixing dinner for wife and I didn’t really feel like doing much.  I sort of melted into the couch and attempted to do a little gaming on the laptop, but before I realized it I was falling asleep.  My wife seemed to be going through the same thing and by the time I headed to bed around 8 pm she was completely dead to the world on the couch and unwakeable without going through an excessive amount of effort.  So I left her sleeping there and crashed…  only to wake up just shy of 1 am due to the cats getting into a bit of a tussle.  I stumbled into the kitchen to take some meds because I was still feeling generally lousy, and around that point in my sleepy fumbling I dropped a pill blister on the floor that miraculously roused sleeping beauty.  So we attempted to head to bed while not waking up enough to make falling right back to sleep a chore.  Thankfully after about thirty minutes of “adjusting” I got right back to sleep and was not woken again until my watch “pre-alarm” started going off.  Generally speaking my smart watch makes me up by buzzing taps about a minute ahead of our insanely annoying alarm on the other side of the room…  giving me a bit of a gentle rousing before the crash of reality hits with the elder machination.

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The challenge I am struggling with right now is there are just too damned many games I want to play.  For starters thanks to a whole slew of reasons I have yet to be Final Fantasy XV.  As I said the other day I am between two decisions on this game… do I force myself to push ahead and play the game in a manner that I do not feel enjoyable, or do I keep piddling away at it in my own manner and make the most of it?  So far I am leaning towards option two, and I am still very much enjoying this game.  Were this my ONLY game I probably would be considerably further in it, because in every manner it feels like a single player MMO to me, and I am sort of piddling around in it like I do an MMO.

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Then there is of course Horizon Zero Dawn, the new hotness that I want to spend all my time playing.  I wrote at length about my feelings regarding this game and it bummed me out that I didn’t feel okay with hanging out upstairs and playing it last night.  I felt largely out of sorts and the game does in fact require a modicum of coordination to land shots in the appropriate sweet spots.  As a result I opted against playing, but I still have a super strong drive to do so… and am hoping I will be feeling generally grand this evening and can return to exploring the much more opened world.

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Then there is of course Zelda Breath of the Wild which should be arriving for my Wii U next Tuesday.  I am not really sure why the delay but in truth I am a bit thankful for it.  I’ve opted against getting a Switch on launch day, because really there is just this one title that I would want to play on it.  In theory I will be happy enough playing it on the Wii U because all I really want to do is explore the world and get my Zelda on once again.  That said the major problem is… it is once again another big game stacked on top of a pile of already big games.

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Another big game that is now sitting in my Steam Library waiting to be installed is Torment Tides of Numenera.  The funny thing about Kickstarter games is that when they finally release… they sort of sneak up on you.  I just looked it up in gmail, and my original backing of this game was on March 6th of 2013, and almost four years later it finally shows up.  The problem with Torment however is that it is also waiting in line behind another similar title… Tyranny which I also have yet to finish.  Spoiler alert, Tyranny will be the March AggroChat game club title, so one way or another I will be finishing that one off in the coming weeks.  However I really only want to have one classic PC RPG sitting waiting in the wings at a time, so for the moment Torment will sit there waiting.

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Then there is of course the next Mass Effect game which releases somewhere towards the end of March.  I am hoping and praying that this will not be another Dragon Age Inquisition, where it is a Bioware experience that I just could not get into for whatever reason.  Generally speaking I like the Mass Effect series way better than I do Dragon Age, because overall the games have been a much more even handed experience for me.  My favorite in the series is Mass Effect 2, but I still find it super easy to get enjoyment out of both the original and the third installment.  I’ve played through the entire sequence several times as well, and they still have lots of great replayability for me personally.  I am hoping that Andromeda just adds to that experience, but once again it is a HUGE game… landing at almost exactly the same time as everything else.

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Then in the summer we have Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind… which lands June 6th and looks awesome.  The only problem there however is that I know the experience is going to get overshadowed by the launch of another MMO expansion.  However this post is more a placeholder saying that I would absolutely LOVE to wrap up the other content, or at least make a dent in it before Morrowind officially lands.

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Finally we have Stormblood… the Final Fantasy XIV expansion that is certain to overshadow literally anything else that is going on at that time.  It launches June 20th and is going to ultimately spawn a feeding frenzy of leveling through both the new story and content and beginning all of the things that come with a proper expansion.  Essentially this is also a line in the sand…  that I basically need to have completed any of the games that I mentioned above before we reach this point in the year or I am simply not going to get around to it for several months.  I am certain that I have left some things off of the list, but it seems like there are just an awful lot of big gaming experiences landing next to each other that I really want to play.  What I mean by “big gaming” is that each of these is a massive game featuring more gameplay that a person could reasonably sit through in a day or two.  With a shooter for example, you have a linear story arc that follows a sequence of levels until you finally reach the crescendo in the final boss fight. Each of the games on my list however is an RPG with meandering and character progression… all of which for me at least can take hundreds of hours of gameplay rather than tens of hours.  For the moment however… I am going to keep juggling FFXV and Horizon and see where I can make it progress wise.  However I still feel like I am drowning in too many good games to play at once and the fear of missing out…  is tangible.

Ode to Cactuar

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Cactuar is a strange place and I love it.  This is of course the server a bunch of us play on in Final Fantasy XIV and compared to so many other game servers…  this one just seems to have a bizarre and friendly spirit to it.  There are a whole slew of us that have been practically living in Quarymill as we grind away at Palace of the Dead to level secondary classes and get a shot at tasty replica raid gear.  As a result Grace and myself happened to be milling around in town waiting for the festivities proper to begin that evening.  Grace pointed out that there were two people bouncing around on Big Chocobo mounts… and we both agreed something to the effect that we should both join in and make this happen.  So within moments of us joining the fray and bouncing around wildly on our giant chocos…  this happened.  Granted a few more guildies came over and joined in the fun but most of us this from just random people talking in /say as we bounced around happily.  This sort of thing is honestly an almost nightly occurrence on our server.  I cannot count how many times I have been in a major hub like this and a random pony party broke out, where everyone mounted up on their extreme primal mounts and started running around.  Sometimes it even evolves into a parade as we all run around throughout the zone.

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Cactuar is a weird place and I love it.  There are so many times I have had to step afk and typed /mdance before leaving…  and come back to a whole bunch of other strangers there with me also dancing the Manderville and somehow almost perfectly synced up with me.  I have so many people on my friends list because they had an amazing outfit and we just struck up a conversation, and we /wave madly at each other anytime we pass out in the world.  Argent Dawn the server I play on in World of Warcraft has always had its bizarre streaks, but more often than not there was an undertone of malice there.  In Final Fantasy XIV folks just seem to be interested in enjoying themselves far more than bringing other people down in the process.  I am sure Cactuar also has its dark underbelly, but generally speaking folks are friendly and more than willing to join in the silliness if given a chance.  It is funny how a server develops a certain culture, which is honestly the main reason why I question games that are essentially server-less.  I know our server “feels” different than a lot of the other larger servers, and I am never quite certain how that sort of thing develops.  I mean I guess it could simply be because our server mascot is a half man half cactus…  which doesn’t exactly evoke feelings of being hardcore and brutal.  Although… anyone who has ever fought a Cactuar knows the score as they fall over after a 10000 Needles attack.

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In other news I finally got to see the Sophia primal fight, as there were a bunch of us who had never done it.  I realize we are a few patch cycles behind on this one, but I have to say I really enjoyed it.  It was like all of the things happening with Leviathan…  but messaged far far better.  There are a lot of moving parts on the fight, but we largely winged it without having seen it and only the most vague description of the fight from those who had.  We single tanked it, and that role fell onto me…  since really I don’t have a well enough geared anything else to do big kid content on.  I had an awful lot of fun with the moving back and forth on the platform to avoid this ability or that… or the platform shift as the scales get out of balance.  We also did a one tank, one healer Ravana Extreme and that fight is still madness.  I would love to do that some more largely because I would really like to get my axe from there…  also of as a side note I would love to do some more Bismarck for the same reason.  I guess ultimately I really am a Warrior main, given that I didn’t swap at Heavensward and still have no plans to swap for Stormblood.  Of all of the gear I own… it is my Warrior gear that I end up enjoying the most.

Four Screenshots

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

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

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

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

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

Random Screenshots

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Last night didn’t go exactly as expected, largely because I did essentially zero gaming.  What happened instead is that I wound up installing Visual Studio community edition and tinking away all night at an idea I have had for awhile.  In order for it to make sense you are going to have to know a few things.  Firstly I take my game screenshots probably way more seriously than most people.  The theory is that since I have to summon a blog post every morning, and use screenshots to break up my blocks of text…  I need access to them quickly and at a moments notice.  Functionally I have thirty minutes to an hour to write every morning, so speed is of the essence.  As a result I have directory system out on 4 terabyte network attached storage drive, that first breaks games up into larger categories like MMORPG or FPS and eventually down into individual game directories.  Functionally feeding this beast would be madness were it not for the fact that I circumvent the screenshot routines of individual games, and dump every single screenshot I take into a “gameshots” directory.  I’ve tried a lot of different solutions and through them all.. the most reliable option has always been Fraps so I continue to use it…  in spite of how clunky it can be sometimes.  About once a month I clean these individual gameshot directories on my desktop and laptop and dump the images laying around into the directory structure on the network attached storage.  I still wish there was a direct way for me to connect into my PS4 screenshots over the network, but for the time being I have been using a second twitter account to export them without spamming my main twitter feed.

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The second piece of information that is going to be key… is that some time ago I had an idea for a post prompt for those days I am struggling to find any purpose.  The idea being to take a random screenshot or two and then write about whatever happened to be going on when I was taking them.  The challenge then becomes how does one grab a random screenshot when you have a multi-tier directory structure that includes over 13,000 files.  This seed was planted around Blaugust time last year but I never actually got around to building it.  For whatever reason last night I sat down while eating dinner… and knocked it out over the course of the evening.  It is still rather crude and doesn’t look amazing, but as the night went on I kept adding different features to it.  The functionality is pretty simple… you use the file picker to choose the directory you want to crawl for screenshots.  If you wanted sheer madness you could of course start at the root of C and crawl downwards, because I believe that would work given that I am using recursion to make the crawl.  When you click search it is going to go out and find any JPG or PNG files and dump them into a list, then after completion dump links to those files out below the progress bar.  You can of course click the links to preview what it brought back.  I tried to make it work with picture boxes but given the 1080p file sizes kept blowing up the memory allocation.  I might rewrite at some point in the future and dump the links into an in app web browser for display.  Sidenote…  the progress bar starts out as complete bullshit but as you run the app remembers how many files it found last time and bases it off of that.  One of the things you will know as a programmer is that progress bars in general…  are bullshit.

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At the moment when you hit search it brings back eight files and displays them as links.  At some point in the future I want to rework this process and use some sort of an object that is easier to add elements to on the fly, rather than a bunch of linklabels as I did last night… because I was lazy.  I would like to have a drop down that lets you choose from some values on how many files to return each search.  Right now I am caching the two directories and the number of files it found on its last run to the app.config, largely because I got tired of having to keep entering the same values each time I ran the application.  I am using app.config because I really don’t want to have to write things to the registry… and I am sure you don’t really want me to do that either.  The final feature to talk about is the save button, that attempts to copy any files found in the search to the directory you have chosen.  I say try because there are of course things that could go wrong along the process.  This morning when I ran it on a new machine for whatever reason it saved the files one directory up from my intended target.  I will have to sort that out and figure out why the behavior isn’t quite functioning as intended.  Whatever the case I’ve zipped up the current build and dropped it on my web host if anyone has a real burning desire to play with it.  It is a 7z file so you will need 7zip to deflate it… largely because I have an obsessive love for that utility.  If there is any demand I will probably throw it up on GitHub and start working off of that, since I don’t really have a great version control option at home.

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For those curious… the images I have been interweaving throughout this post were pulled using the random tool this morning.  Just like with any randomizer there are going to be sequences of things closely tied together.  This morning it returned:  Diablo 3, Everquest 2, Fallout 4, Final Fantasy XIV, Final Fantasy V, and three shots from World of Warcraft.  So if you are looking for shots from a bunch of different games you might need to spin the wheel more than once to see what shakes out.  I’ve run it before and everything that was chosen save for a couple files are from my Final Fantasy XIV directory.  Granted in my case… I have way more screenshots of WoW and FFXIV than pretty much anything else in the directory structure with FFXIV containing 3,071 files and WoW containing 1,462 files.  Though in theory the WoW Directory is not a true representation given that I have a bunch of files on Google Photos that predate the NAS idea.  I also have literally every hard drive I have ever used sitting in a stack, and I have as a weekend project at some point to crawl through them looking for old game screenshots to add to the collection.  Generally speaking I donate all of my computers to Goodwill, but before doing so I pull the hard drive… and you end up with a stack of 20-30 drives over the course of a couple decades.  Here is hoping that they still spin after all of this time.  Let me know if you end up playing with this and what your results are.

 

Provoking Stupidity

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I sat here this morning for a good thirty minutes contemplating not making a post today.  After the flurry of activity coming back from PAX, and still struggling with what whatever respiratory hell that continues to drag on after getting home…  I just feel completely drained of interesting things to talk about.  Right now I tend to play at least a little bit of three different games each night.  I’ve moved on from the Sahagin and am now focused on the Kobolds while doing dailies in Final Fantasy XIV.  In World of Warcraft, I am attempting to do my emissary cache chests, thought I saw the one from Nightfallen and “noped” the hell out of it last night.  I am not sure why but I am just done with Suramar as a whole, and nothing seems less exciting than venturing forth into that zone to track down four dots on the map and completing them.  I am not a huge fan of elves in general, and the fact that there is this giant pseudo stealth city in the middle of the zone…  kinda combines a bunch of things that I find miserable in one place.  After dealing with dailies in WoW and FFXIV I tend to log into The Elder Scrolls Online to push that story a little further, however right now it feels like I am mired in Malabal Tor and dead in the water.  The beginning of that zone was awesome, but I have reached this middle section largely focused on Elvish politics…  and man am I struggling to care.  However I am making progress, because I keep turning black symbols on my map into white symbols.

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Last night I did a little more than normal in Final Fantasy XIV as six of us all queued for Dun Scaith together.  This was my first time in the zone, and in fact I slowed down the party from queuing because I had to actually finish turning in my quests and watching the cut scenes post Weeping City.  It was a lot of fun, and reminded me quite a bit of the way the fights felt during Syrcus Tower.  There were a lot of “wipe the raid” mechanics but they all largely seemed messaged well, apart from the whole “stop doing anything” section of one of the fights.  Granted as a tank I could be dumb and stand in a certain amount of crap while learning the lay of the land.  I reluctantly ended up main tanking several of the bosses, because I kept pulling threat on the Dark Knight that was super serious about main tanking.  Generally speaking if I am tanking I go with the flow and if someone pulls a mob off me then “Gratz you get to tank now”.  However this Dark Knight did not subscribe to that philosophy because he kept provoking the boss back to him…  and then through simply doing my primary combo I would end up pulling the boss off of him again, which would in turn cause him to provoke the moment his cool down was up.  After a few rounds of this… I went deterrence and focused on trying to do as much damage as I could.  At which point… the Dark Knight died and I once again had the boss.  His party rezzed him…  and you know the very first thing he did?  Yup… he provoked the boss back onto him at which point I sort of wanted him to keep dying out of his sheer stupidity.

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After tanking Dun Scaith I just sort of faded into the background and played a bunch of other things.  The problem is right now… nothing is really completely clicking with me.  I seem to enjoy everything well enough, but just in very small bursts.  By 9 pm I was already starting to yawn, and by 10 pm I was in full zombie mode as I stumbled through the house trying to shut it down for the night.  Functionally I am probably just restless and sick, and been unable to really give myself the time needed to convalesce.  I’ve functionally had to work sick, because things have been too crazy not to.  I am looking forward to when the worst of this is past me, and I can take a few days off… or at least allow myself to completely fall apart rather than trying to keep myself going just well enough to remain functional.  The legitimate Flu has been going around at work, and I am hoping that I remain in this realm of respiratory hell… and don’t actually catch that one.  I took my shot, and it was the three way protection variety… so here is hoping that we don’t end up with strain four.

Chateau Belghast

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This weekend was a bizarre one.  We are still very much under the gun of a release date, and I attempted to do whatever I could to further that goal.  However for all of Saturday our building was without power, and I was instead on call just in case something went wrong.  The building power went down at 6:30 in the morning, and by the time we started recording AggroChat we had not yet gotten the all clear.  I was just hoping that things would cycle off of the generators as successfully as they did cycling onto them, and that I would not end up getting interrupted during the podcast.  Sunday was a mixed bag of work and doing all of the other things that we ultimately put off until Sunday like laundry and various errands.  The weekend as a whole wound up being a very random mix of games as I played whatever I could during the brief moments of downtime.  As you can see by the Chateau Belghast image above, I started fiddling around with Fallout 4 once again, and scrapped my old house and built this one instead.  The inside is largely unfurnished but I am digging the outside quite a bit.  It took me far longer than it should have to sort out how best to attempt centering the neon text, but in the grand scheme it seems to look okay.  The frustrating bit with their neon font is that is is in no way monospaced with the characters all varying pretty wildly in width.

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In Final Fantasy XIV I am still very much getting back in the swing of things, and have fallen into the pattern of doing Beast Tribe dailies.  In theory I started down this path because I wanted a reliable source of ventures for my retainers, so that I could keep sending out my gatherers on field exploration.  However I also really like mounts, and over the course of the last week or so I have been pushing up the Sahagin, not necessarily because I love the mount, but more because it was the next closest faction.  For a long period of time, it was the faction I was spending the rest of my daily allowance on while working on the Sylph.  Yesterday however I managed to push Sahagin across the finish line and now have my truly bizarre Sapsa mount to ride around on.  I figured what better place to take a picture of it than in the waters of The Mists, where the Free Company house is located.  Next up should be the Kobolds as once again…  they are the next closest given that I had been spending my extra ventures on them while working on the Sahagin.  I mean I know there are lots of other things I SHOULD be doing… but I just can’t bring myself to pug dungeons yet.  After a string of bad experiences with Palace of the Dead… I don’t much feel like pugging that one either.  The problem there is as we talked about on the podcast, is that if you fail…  you lose all progress gained which seems deeply punitive for a random group activity.

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Finally I spent a good amount of time this weekend playing Elder Scrolls online.  I failed to take any screenshots so instead you get an interior shot of my home.  I pushed forward the story line in Malabal Tor a bit, but the big problem with ESO is that I tend to wander wildly.  I find it extremely hard to stay focused and instead I wind up going after the next object on the horizon that looks interesting, and as a result never seem to end up getting my objectives accomplished.  There is always a fallen log to harvest, or an outcropping of ore to mine.  Whatever the case I find myself continuing to move steadily towards 160 champion levels, which is the current item cap.  Unfortunately I have a feeling this is probably going to change with Morrowind, but for the time being getting there.. and being able to craft a set of gear that will last me for a bit tends to be my focus.  The other thing that I am realizing is that 160 champion levels is just a drop in the bucket given that quite literally every build I find expects you to have at least four or five times that amount.  There is a part of me that wishes I had never actually faded away from this game, because at this very moment I am so impossibly behind the curve.  Then again I think that overwhelming amount of content is what has been drawing me there much in the same way as it did for A Realm Reborn until we caught up.  I know there is more to do than I have time to do it… and in some way that is insurance from ever really getting bored.