Shotguns and Game Awards

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desktop-screenshot-2018-12-06-21-07-33-63Last night was a night about two things…  farming Escalation Protocol in the slim hope of getting a shotgun…  and watching The Game Awards.  I didn’t even realize that the later was happening until Pete mentioned something about it on Twitter.  I am not really a follower of awards shows in general because traditionally speaking they don’t actually reflect my interests in quite literally anything.  The academy awards tend to focus on artsy films, and the grammys tend to focus on pop music…  neither of which are really my jam.  I still remember the Grammys where Metallica Performed and was nominated for the new “Hard Rock” category…  against Jethro Tull…  and Jethro Tull won.  Basically I have always sorta considered the awards scene to be grossly out of touch with anything that interested me.  I can’t really say that the Game Awards are all that different given that I don’t really play a lot of the games that they talked about.

It has been however super interesting to watch the show evolve over time.  Each year the “realness” has escalated significantly and last night… it legitimately felt like any other big budget awards show in existence.  Hell they even have a proper theme now, which was kinda cool and did a good job of showcasing the different flavors of gaming.  I also enjoyed how they have this blend of reveals and awards, as well as a meaningful pre-show that instead of watching the “red carpet” used that time to give out the less glitzy stuff like lifetime achievement awards.  There was also a reasonable blend of traditional celebrities, e-celebs, and legendary game devs… all treated as peers to create this weird blend of everything that makes the community interesting.  For example I don’t care about Ninja necessarily, but I do know he is a big deal in the Fortnite juggernaut, and probably a significantly better ambassador to the “normies” than Pewdie Pie.

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The twitch screen had up this “Worlds Will Change” logo prior to the pre-show actually starting, so when we opened the Game Awards with Shawn Layden, Phil Spencer, and Reggie Fils-aime from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo respectively all sharing the stage I momentarily got my hopes up.  I wondered would they reveal that finally all games on all three platforms would be cross play by default?  Sadly however it was just a gesture of togetherness rather than anything meaningful, but still very cool to see that happen as they all appear on effectively neutral ground.  They still need to hammer out those details behind the scenes so that we can all play together without boundary, which is ultimately the thing I think most gamers really want.  Truth be told I just want the consoles and PC versions to cross play given that I am almost always going to prefer the PC version the best.

As far as reveals go the one that was the most interesting to me personally was The Outer Worlds by Obsidian, which appeared to be a Fallout style game set in a Wild West Space Opera sort of world on the outskirts of the universe.  I am always down with scifi blended with westerns blended with what appeared to be bioshock style advertising branding.  It is Obsidian, so we know the story is going to be good… that is the thing they do really really well.  It will also probably be very buggy, because that is another thing they do really really well is generate bugs.  Regardless I am now really looking forward to this game after only having seen a little bit of trailer.

We got a much longer trailer for Psychonauts 2, which is something we already knew was coming but also something that is going to be excellent.  I fully expect to be replaying the previous one prior to this game coming out so I can sorta blend my way into the new story.  It has been a really really long time since I last played Psychonauts.

I am also really interested in Far Cry New Dawn which to the best of my knowledge is the first game in the Far Cry series that is a direct sequel to the previous one?  It also makes me want to play Far Cry 5 if this is where we are going to end up.  There were lots of other reveals and they have posted most of them on the official The Game Awards Youtube, which is super handy.

What games were revealed that you are looking forward to?  Drop me a comment and let me know.  I will be spending the weekend on a mix of still farming for the shotgun in Destiny 2 and splitting time between two big alphas that are also happening.

Destiny Nostalgia

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With my general disappointment I have over Black Armory and the direction the game seems to be going now…  with focusing only on the end game and not actually giving us anything new that we can do the moment a content update drops.  It got me feeling notalgic about Destiny 1 and some of the things I miss that have never quite made it over to Destiny 2.  So I am going to take this morning as an opportunity to rifle through my vault and pull out the things I would love to see over here.  This is mostly just me posting a bunch of pictures of weapons and talking about them, so if that is not your thing then today’s post is likely highly skippable.

Legendary Weapons

Destiny was largely a game about collecting the exotics, but there were a handful of legendary weapons that stood out and that I coveted.  I figured a handful of these definitely needed to be talked about.  There were a lot of them that I liked, but these were the weapons that I absolutely loved.

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We are going to start things off with the weapon that I bring up so many times…  my perfect roll Haakon’s Hatchet, or at least what I considered to be a perfect roll.  It came from Year 2 Iron Banner and still has one of the overall best looking Iron Banner weapon visual aesthetics.  It had Range Finder, Perfect Balance and Counterbalance so was insanely stable and while relatively short range… it could melt targets especially in the Crucible or Iron Banner.  This also doubled as probably one of my favorite PVE weapons for just dealing a bunch of reliable damage to targets.

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The Haakon’s Hatchet was eventually replaced with the Genesis Chain which dropped on my first time through Wrath of the Machine when I was super carried hard by my friends in Tequila Mockingbird.  I admit a lot of why I used this weapon was because it looked cool and it had an interesting perk called Focused Firefly…  which was essentially a much bigger version of the normal firefly that caused targets to explode when you to a precision kill.  It also had this super satisfying noise that it made when you triggered one of these explosions…  which I think is the real reason why I kept using it.  It sounded sorta like the ping of kicking brass out of a Mosin Nagant in all of the WW2 era FPS titles with a bunch of reverb at the end.

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I generally hated the look of all of the Year 3 Iron Banner weapons…  there is just something about having a bunch of bits crudely cobbled together that didn’t do it for me.  This is weird because in general the Fallen weapon aesthetic is very similar…  but somehow works with all of its spiky nonsense.  The main reason why I loved this weapon was its absolutely crazy high impact, and the fact that enhanced battery took the available shots up to 6… and with performance bonus it had a chance of refunding some ammo.  This could just straight up melt any target in front of you, and was a pretty good option to help burn elites.

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My heavy weapon of choice has usually always been a machine gun because it always feels like you have a lot more versatility due to the larger magazine size… or in the case of most of them drum size.  Once again this gets a strike against it for the horrible asethestic of year 3 Iron Banner weapons, but it has a lot going for it when it comes to stats with Extended Mag, Hand-Laid Stock and Counterblance giving me a fairly high impact and very stable machine gun.  Not much else to say about it… it was very much a utilitarian burn option that wasn’t flashy but got the job done.

Exotic Weapons

While we have ended up with a large number of carry over from Destiny 1 in the Exotics department, there are still a handful that I really enjoyed using that it would be nice to see reborn in one form or another.

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I have to give an initial shout out to Hawkmoon, which was the very first Exotic that I ever got to drop.  Now rumor has it that we are getting this back at some point in the upcoming seasons… but for the time being an equivalent does not exist in game.  It was a high damage high capacity hand canon made interesting by the fact that two of the bullets would deal extra damage.  Ultimately I replaced this in my line up with the Eyasluna which was essentially the legendary version of Hawkmoon allowing me more leverage in where I chose to use my exotic slot.  It still bears mentioning however for introducing me to how cool exotics could be.

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Another weapon that was also near and dear to my heart that absolutely no one else liked playing with…  was the Fabian Strategy or the Titan exclusive exotic.  I have always been a very run and gun player and as such was regularly closing the gap on a pack of mobs, which triggered crowd control and the front lines perk that increased weapon stability and rate of fire.  The fact that a portion of the ammo was reloaded into the magazine on kills meant I could storm the castle and maintain a killing screen while taking out minions.  This all fits my general play style and made me love this weapon far more than I should have given how many other people kept telling me it was garbage.  Proof again that weapon choice is absolutely a personal preference thing.

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Red Death was my go to for whenever I needed to sustain my life in a situation where I knew I would be taking a significant amount of damage.  This made it the ideal weapon for those affixes that would cause your shields not to regenerate normally, or anything where there was a aura effect that would be slowly damaging you over time.  Sure we got Crimson which is effectively a Hand Canon version of this weapon, but it feels lousy to play with in my opinion and as such doesn’t really count for me.  I would love to see the original Red Death back.  Given the storied past of this weapon it feels like the perfect option for a lengthy chain to unlock it.

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Now for the weapon that inspired this post…  Thunderlord is awesome and does a great job of melting a bunch of minions because of its arc damage proc…  but the best version of that was on the Zhalo Supercell.  Not only was it a really stable auto rifle, but the chain lightning proc made it perfect for clearing waves of mobs.  It also held a special place as one of the few elemental primaries that survived the year one cull, which made it amazing for arc burn weeks.  I would love to see a version of this gun back with a similar proc, especially given how many horde mode encounters we are getting in the game now.

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While I never got to experience the grandeur of year one Gjallarhorn because I stopped playing shortly after launch…  I fell in love with this weapon during Year 3 and it is impossible to make a nostalgic post without mentioning it.  There was just nothing cooler than watching an entire pack of mobs melt to wolfpack rounds.  During much of Year 3 this was pretty much the dedicated exotic that I used for everything because even if it was not solar burn week… it still was the best option for killing all of the things at once.  Sure one might say that made it too powerful, but it was insanely fun to play with so it deserves on this list.

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Another weapon that I would love to have back that we will probably never get back… is Invective or the shotgun that regenerates ammunition over time.  Sure this and the Icebreaker the sniper equivalent were a little broken…  but I loved this weapon so much in The Crucible because I didn’t have to care about the meta of trying to camp the special ammo.  It looks amazing as well which as we all know goes a lot way to making a weapon feel good to use.  Party Crasher+1 was the only shotgun I used regularly other than this one, but for most of my iron banner nonsense it was this in the special, Haakon’s in the primary and some machine gun in the heavy slot.

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Sure we got a version of this with the Curse of Osiris DLC called Machina Dei 4 but it is nowhere near as good as this classic exotic version.  It also looks nowhere near as cool.  I would love to see a version of the original return, because again… this was an epic quest in the original Destiny and would give ample opportunity to make it a seasonal quest to recover the weapon.  Everyone loved the Stranger’s Rifle and this was just an updated version of that, so would love to see it back.

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These next two are largely situational, but I felt like they were unique enough that I wanted to include them as well.  Touch of Malice was a must have raid weapon for the Taken King expansion, given that there were many burn phases where you were given an invulnerability effect allowing you to effectively pour rounds into the target without reloading with this weapon.  It’s special effect allowed you to drain your own life and convert it into a bullet to keep firing after you have essentially emptied your magazine.  This mean’t that it was super useful in a few clutch situations, but also was a great way to kill yourself if you were not paying much attention.  In either case it was fun for the entire family.

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Lastly we have Bad Juju that had two situations where it worked amazingly well.  String of Curses did two things… firstly kills caused your ammo to reload and give you a damage buff.  Secondly this effect when procced caused you to gain additional super energy, allowing you to charge your super significantly faster if you could be put in a situation where you had to kill waves of mobs.  This made this the go to weapon in situations where you needed to have your super up regularly, which came in super handy in Prison of Elders and similar activities where you were both fighting a bunch of stuff and also getting additional credit for using your super.  Other than that I was not a huge fan of the weapon, but I liked it because it filled a specific niche in my armory.

What were some of the weapons that you miss from Destiny 1?  I largely excluded the elemental swords because I would have had to have included all three of them… because they were all great in their own way.  Drop me a line in the comments below about your favorite Destiny 1 weapon that we have not seen yet in Destiny 2.

Disappointing Armory

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Yesterday the doors of the Black Armory opened…  sorta.  One of the problems with hype cycles is that you can often build something up in your head to be way more than it actually ends up being.  Destiny has this traditional of releasing a DLC and with it comes some new storyline and a bunch of new activities, and at some point they decided to get off that train.  I heard the words that they said… but I guess I didn’t take that to mean what we got?  The Black Armory is effectively what would be termed as a “Minor Patch” in literally any other MMORPG, where you effectively get a new activity to do similar to a Holiday event.  This however is supposed to be the major selling point of the Annual pass, that incidentally came with my super duper deluxe version of Forsaken.  Had I purchased the annual pass separately I probably would think I got ripped off.  I’m just setting the tone of the post ahead of time so if you are having an awful lot of fun with Black Armory and the Volundr Forge then by all means skip the rest of my post.

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Effectively the Black Armory DLC adds a new area of the tower that is locked behind a door…  that you apparently need to get a key from Spider to open.  So your first mission is to go over to the Tangled Shore and talk to spider…  or what I call a Forsaken purchase check… meaning it starts in an area that you cannot get to unless you already own the Forsaken expansion.  You take your purchase acknowledgement back to the tower and you will find that there is a door you can now access buried in the bowels of the tower industrial complex…  because apparently no one had a key to the door directly adjacent to Ikora Rey until today.  We get to meet Ada-1 a surly robot that gives us a lecture on Guardian privilege before sending us out into the world to use said privilege to re-ignite the forges that she apparently had stolen from her.

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There is some faffing about in the EDZ as we collect some bits with some rather obtuse directions about how to get a weapon core.  To save you all the hassle of trying to figure this out here is an image of what you are looking for, since when you go out there yourself it is likely going to be farmed down…  and you wind up wondering exactly what it is you are hunting for.  To drop the shield you kill the single drone thingy orbiting it and then can loot the weapon core from it.  The other piece will be to kill some Fallen and in truth by the time you get to this location…  you have probably passed enough to complete the quest.  I found my cache in the outskirts near the bridge leading to the area where those first Hawthorne missions occurred. There is supposedly an area in the Gulch that also has caches but I didn’t find any there myself in part because I had no clue what I was looking for.

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There is a bit of killing Hive and getting Multikills with heavy…  and then some High Value Targets…  but essentially you can complete all of this with a few rounds of escalation protocol.  From there you travel to the Volundr forge to create this weapon that you just gathered the parts for… and it is also a new area tacked onto the map.  This time you head to the Sunken Isles drop zone in the northwest area of the map, and head into the tunnel complex which will eventually lead you to a new area of the map shown in the above image.  You would think this works like the various other public events, in that you can just happen into a group completing it and join in the fun… but you would be wrong.  Bungie gave us match making… that inexplicably we have to travel to the planet and wander around a bit to actually enter.

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Interacting with the doodad in the world will dump you into a matchmaking queue, and here is where the frustration begins.  With Black Armory the light cap moved from 600 to 650 which is to be expected, but this first activity you encounter has a suggested light level of 610 which in itself is a bit misleading.  Basically they have thrown us at something that we really can’t successfully pug on day one.  Sure there are folks who are forging their weapons but I would hazzard a guess that it is a really small minority.  Squirrel who is among the most hardcore of my Destiny friends failed out just as surely as I did, in part because the minion class mobs are just bullet sponges and it takes two full reloads of shotgun blasts to take down one of the special glowing mobs that drop items needed for the event.  Essentially you have a minute to ignite the forge by killing glowing bastards that drop the ubiquitous orbs we are constantly transporting… and toss them at  the forge that is conveniently shaped like a four square goal.  Each time you dunk a donut you get back some time on the clock, and to progress to phase two you need to have collected twenty of these mcguffins.

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Unfortunately this is where the bullshit starts a bit because while the suggested light of wave one is 610, it increases difficulty… and the final phase includes a boss that has a suggested light level of 630.  So essentially read this event as something that we are not supposed to be caring about until 630 unless you are willing to bleed copious amounts of blood on this cutting edge content.  The problem is… this is our expansion content…  a few quick quests and then an activity that we are not supposed to be doing until we have pushed our light up significantly already.  It feels like if Warmind had ONLY included Escalation Protocol and nothing else…  because that is sorta what happened here.  We got another world event that this time has a match making system, but nothing much else to show for it.  Maybe in their heads they were counting all of the stuff we got at the start of season 5 as being “part of the dlc” but it feels super hollow when we already got to unwrap that gift, and now all we have left under the tree is a squishy package of socks.  Notice how EVERYTHING is disabled on ADA-1 until I complete this first step of igniting the forge.

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After completing a handful of Powerful rewards bounties/challenges and getting a few Prime Engrams I have managed to push my light level up to 604 in the first night.  That is still woefully short of being within striking range of making a real attempt at this event.  Conversely I remember rolling up in the Archon’s Forge event and succeeding for a few rounds on the first day it opened.  Right now Black Armory feels horrible and if this was how they were going to supposedly fix the Engagement and Monetization issues that Activision talked about in their conference call…  then I think they are mental.  If this is what a DLC is from this point out…  then the Annual Pass is not worth it in the least.  Sure this will be a lot of fun at some point, but when you add tasty pie into the game you expect to be able to at least have a single slice by the end of the night.  The pie unfortunately is mincemeat, and tastes like sadness and soggy raisins.

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So instead of doing the thing that just went into the game… I instead did the thing that I had been neglecting terribly.  I had to do some Vanguard strikes for the poweful reward anyway, so I opted to take along my Ikelos weapon and knock the “do five strikes” step out while  I was chaining them.  From there I went through the process of unlocking 15 memory fragments…  which weirdly enough I happened to have just enough Resonate Stems from grinding random stuff on Mars to be able to craft all 15 keys.  Essentially once you have those it just becomes a scavenger hunt which took a little over an hour to get to all 15 locations.  From there I ran the special quest…  and Xol becomes trivial with the Thunderlord and I finished my night with a shiny new Sleeper Simulant that I immediately infused a 610 rocket launcher into to make it viable for shenanigans.  All in all I still had a good night, but I am sorely disappointing in The Black Armory… and concerned for the state of the game if this is what a DLC means from this point out.  Prior to last night I said that Destiny was in the best place it had been since initial release…  now it feels like this one action took us a massive step or two back.

Thanksgiving Ramble

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This morning’s post is going to be fairly rambly…  so just letting my brain go where it takes me.

For anyone who might be curious, as far as we can tell everything went well yesterday.  Mother-in-law made it through the biopsy just fine and while she was a little out of it from the after effects of the anesthesia, but someone hung out with her last night to make sure all was right.  We expect to see her today, but so far everything seems okay. The doctor made a comment that it did not look cancerous, but it will be awhile before we hear anything official back. However I want to thank everyone that reached out to me about it yesterday, I greatly appreciate it.

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For those of us in the United States it is Thanksgiving, which in itself is a holiday with a shady past.  However I do like the general concept of taking a day out to spend time with those you care about, share a nice meal, and remember all of those things that you are thankful for.  A few years back I did this thing that I called a Month of Thankfulness, and tacked a paragraph or two onto the tail end of my blog post every morning. I had all intention of rebooting it this year, but as November 1st ticked around…  It just did not happen. Given how busy and frustrating this month has been for me personally… it was probably a good idea.

Firstly I want to say that I am exceedingly blessed or lucky depending upon your point of view.  I am constantly humbled by the fact that I got where I am today because of the help of countless individuals along the way who gave me the time of day and decided to take an interest in me as a human being.  I’m not a very competitive individual, and I think I am proof that you don’t necessarily have to be to get ahead in the world. In fact I think collaboration and helping others is just as valid a means of forward momentum…  as trampling others with your ambition.

That said I also feel like it is my responsibility to help out others as much as I can.  Leading guilds and building communities was always my way of making this happen, and more recently that skill set has been applied to managing a team of fifteen individuals with all of their different needs.  This is one of those moments where I wish gaming were more accepted, but as someone in management… I can tell you that everything you learn as a guild and raid leader is completely applicable to leading individuals in the workplace.  Getting folks to band together to kill an imaginary monster is no less valid than trying to get them to finish a project by the deadline.

I’m very lucky that I have a partner in this journey that while she may not be into all of the things that I am…  still considers them completely valid. She has her things and I support her in them, and she supports me in mine.  I am also very lucky in that we have a comfortable life where we can both be doing our own things at the same time… but also feel like we are spending time together.  That interaction though can easily transition into one of our many jaunts out into the world to go wandering and looking for interesting things. We’ve been together for over two decades at this point, and I cannot fathom existing without my navigator.

I am also extremely thankful to the AggroChat podcast crew and the assorted friends of the podcast we have gathered over the years.  This group has become a family that I care about deeply, and even if we don’t happen to be playing the same game at the same time… is a place that I can easily settle into and that accepts me for my transient ways.  While I have struggled at times with the constraints of recording a weekly podcast, there is no group of people I would rather be doing it with. I love all of my co-hosts so much, and if tomorrow we decided to stop it all…  none of that would change.

I am extremely thankful to the folks who hang around and comment on my blog and who make up the greater blogging community that participate in events like Blaugust.  You are all an inspiration to me each time I venture and and visit your blogs. The fact that I have a community is a good part of the reason why I keep talking. So often when you have a blog it feels like you are shouting into the void, and while I honestly find it easier to write like I am talking to myself… it is nice knowing that there is actually someone out there.  We’ve shared so many events through this blog, and as I have said so many things… it is part confession, part exposition and part therapy. Thanks for being willing to keep reading my nonsense.

I think one of the hallmarks of my generation… is the fact that we have very permeable lines as to what constitutes family.  For my mom, it is very much a case of blood is stronger than anything else, but weirdly I never latched onto that notion. I consider anyone who I care about and who is there for me… to be family.  The news has been making a big deal about “Friendsgiving” this year, but in truth I would never refer to it as such. My friends are just as much my family as the one I was born into.

Maybe it is a side effect of not really having ever seen eye to eye with much of my family, or the fact that as my grandparents passed away… all of those formal holiday structures faded with them.  Today I am going to be spending time with an assemblage of my parents and friends of the family, and it feels no less valid to me personally than we used to have to squeeze twenty people around a dining room table that only got the leaves put it in once a year.  It will be a blend of my family, my wife’s family, and a few people that we wanted to make sure had a gathering to go to. The thing is… I think the most important part of Thanksgiving is the symbolic act of sharing a meal with the ones you love.

I am going to go ahead and wrap this post up because otherwise I will have written another four page epic… that on one actually wants to read.  I hope all of you out there have a very Happy Thanksgiving… and even if you are not in the United States… take some time over the next few days to share a meal with some of the people that are important to you in life.  That is the root of why I care about Thanksgiving, and it is that moment and tradition that I am thankful for among so many other things.

 

Let’s Go Thoughts

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Without really intending to… this weekend became largely about Let’s Go Pokemon, the new Pokemon game that released on the Nintendo Switch Friday.  I went with Eevee, because quite honestly it is one of my favorite Pokemon largely for the sheer versatility that is available in the evolved forms.  The starter Eevee however will be permanently locked in its adorable pupa stage, and I am mostly okay with that…  as it keeps me from having to try and figure out which way I want to evolve my Pokemon.  I decided to give my Eevee the super adult name of Wigglebum.

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Similarly I decided to give my rival the super adult name of Buttface, because in most of the other Pokemon games that I have played… they turn out to be a dick.  Unfortunately this one is rather awesome, and constantly cheering us on and giving us free stuff.  Now I feel sorta bad when I am in a cutscene with the two of us…  and I see the monaker that I unfairly bestowed upon them.  Blue however is around to play the role of the butthead, but even he seems better behaved than I remember him…  or in my case it was Red that was the Butt since I played Pokemon Blue not Red.

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A few days ago my friend Hestiah posted a thread where she commented on a few of the Pokemon Go names that she came up as she caught them.  This made me realize how generally boring I am when it comes to catching Pokemon, in that I never actually give them names.  Maybe it feels better when I send them back to the professor to grind into candy if I didn’t name them in the first place. Ultimately she is the one who inspired all of this serious adulting… and has trickled down to the individual Pokemon as well.  ZappyGirl started her life as ShockyRat, and then I decided to name her based on the whole Zappy Boi  meme…  and thankfully this game lets you rename your charges whenever the hell you want to.

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The interesting thing about Let’s Go as a game is that it seems way the hell more sticky for me personally than any other Pokemon game to date.  The truth is I don’t really like Pokemon combat, and it always felt weird to be beating up on random woodland creatures.  In this game it has adopted a Pokemon Go sort of approach where the individual Pokemon appear and you walk over to them to engage in a capture session… where you have all of the same tools as you do in the handheld game.  If you are playing in handheld mode you simply center the screen on the pokemon and throw the ball…  if you are playing docked you have to do some motion controlling nonsense with a dettached joycon in order to capture.  I am super disappointed that I could not play with my Pro Controller and just mimic the same behavior I do in handheld mode…  as such I am largely playing this game undocked which sorta makes me a little sad.

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Traditional combat still exists and is reserved for dueling other trainers, which feels a little better than kicking the ass of every random pidgey that happens across your path while roaming between two areas.  Wigglebum however is a soul less killing machine and gives zero fucks about beating up her kin.  She believes in Highlander rules… and there can be only one Eevee.  The interesting thing about random trainer battles is just how insanely lucrative they are, and the fact that apparently you never really need to buy Pokeballs in this game?  Most battles reward anywhere between 3 and 5 Pokeballs… and have just started paying out in Great Balls helping me keep in stock of those as well.  When I am playing in motion control mode I fail an awful lot so I am guessing they are paying out to help stop the frustration of Nintendo and their determination to make me do stupid shit with my hands while playing their games.

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The game feels extremely good and while it is mimicking Red and Blue… that doesn’t somehow ruin my experience because I have not played either of those since 1999/2000ish on a Gameboy Emulator?  This is mostly a fresh experience to me and while it seems really familiar… I can largely chock it up to the fact that ALL Pokemon games feel somewhat familiar.  I spent just shy of 9

hours over the weekend playing Pokemon Let’s Go, and while that might not sound like a ton of time… it is for me when it comes to a Pokemon game.  I tend to bounce off of them pretty fast, and this time I just kept playing…  until my switch battery ran out… and then went upstairs to dock it and try playing some more.

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I am not terribly far progressed, but at this point I have made it through three Gyms and quite honestly the only one I had any issues with was Misty and the Water type gym.  The only real problem there was Starmie and its inexplicable fire type moves???  I limped through it, but I had to take two runs at getting through her.  Surge and Brock were both easy as hell and largely fell over when I attacked them.  There are a bunch of weird moves that you can teach your starter, and according to Ashgar…  while they have horrible names they are actually really good.  So I might make my way back to that NPC and try a few of them.  So far Doublekick and Tackle have been my money attacks… and everything else seems to largely be expendable.

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Ultimately the game is super charming and if you like the concept of Pokemon, but maybe struggled a bit to get into it…  I highly suggest you check this game out.  If you are a Pokemon purist, some of the changes might frustrate you… but then again it is a Pokemon game so admit it… you are probably going to play it anyways.  I’ve linked my Pokemon Go account but have not made it to the area of the game where it allows you to swap stuff back and forth.  Last night Ash and I were going to try trading some stuff, but I ultimately fell asleep…  so I will try and catch up with him tonight and do that thing.  All in all… super fun game and my wife was shocked to see me playing it instead of something with more death, gore and dismemberment.  There is still a time for childlike wonder in the Tales of the Aggronaut.

If you are so inclined… we also talk quite a bit about the game on the podcast this weekend.

Mobile Core

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I’ve been on this journey of discovery, that largely started with the negative reaction the Diablo Immortal reaction had in the community as a whole.  Sure there was the pent up disappointment that we had waiting for Diablo 4, but it seemed to go way further than that.  There was a reaction that most of the Diablo fans had, myself included… that mobile gaming was somehow “not for them”.  Right or wrong there has been an impression among PC and Console gamers that mobile gaming was something “casuals” did, and that serious gamers were playing games on other platforms.  I am not even sure if this was ever the case, but it feels like things are changing drastically on this front, largely because mobile devices have improved greatly over when I was trying to play a Diablo clone on my Palm Pilot back in 2003.  Like I have said before when I fail to understand something, I tend to pour myself into trying to figure it out, and as such I have been playing a lot more mobile games lately.

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One of them is The Walking Dead Our World, which at face value appears to be a Pokemon Go clone for The Walking Dead.  Sure I knew Pokemon Go fans were hardcore and established raids and such on a regular basis…  but that more or less is in spite of the fact that Nintendo still refuses to accept that the internet is a thing that exists.  Our World seems to be a game that takes the idea of PoGo but extends all of the things we have learned about clan/guild play and internet connectivity.  As a solo player it is largely a game about clearing infestations, picking up supply caches and rescuing survivors.  As a team however it changes drastically, and in truth were I not now part of an active clan I probably would have faded away from this game long before.

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The game more or less suggests you join a group, and then suggests the ones that are active in your vicinity.  The biggest problem I had was finding one that was not outwardly racist, trumpian, sexist or anti-LGBT.  It was shocking to me to see just how many groups had something like that in their message, thankfully I found this one that seemed to be reasonable and largely focused on getting objectives done.  Now I don’t know any of these people in real life, but they apparently live in the near vicinity of me…  and a lot of the locations that get called out over chat are places in the surrounding communities.  There is a Weekly Challenge system that involves performing a bunch of objectives and then unlocking rewards as a result.  Last week I believe we made it through four maybe five of these challenge boards, each time earning really good loot and the in game “upgrade” currency.  What I find the most interesting is that everything I see in the social chat that I largely just lurk in…  mirrors the exact same behavior I have seen in MMO Guilds.  They are all working together on a shared objective and focusing on specific things that they can bring to the table.

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The game has this interesting system that allows players to drop a flare at a specific location, and then other players in your clan can teleport to that location and be able to farm the objectives there.  I’ve seen this a few times when someone happened across an area with a cluster of epic missions for example.  The game tends to follow the television shows, and if a character has a major role that week… then immediately following there will be a number of seasonal missions that show up awarding the cards related to that player.  I’ve also seen my clan drop flares when they find a cluster of a specific type of walker needed for an objective…  like over the last couple of days we have been working on killing armored walkers with Darryl, which as such lead to my load out in the above screenshot.  It of course has a cash shop, and while it is pretty pushy about advertising what is for sale…  it doesn’t appear like you actually need anything from it pending you are willing to wait things out.  Similarly being in a clan tends to help make sure you are rolling in resources.

Mostly I found it shocking to see the exact same MMORPG behavior on a mobile platform.  I will admit I largely thought that Pokemon Go and the dedication of those players…  was more attributed to the source material and less something that you find on mobile devices in general.  However as I have dug into Dragalia Lost I have run across some seemingly super hardcore players there as well.  I think the tides are shifting, and maybe those of us who proclaim to be PC or Console gamers need to update our mindsets.  Sure mobile gaming might be “not for you” but the low barrier of entry… and how well all of these games run on my $300 unlocked android phone…  makes it accessible to a market that may not be able to purchase a Console or a Gaming PC…  but is damned likely to have a mobile phone that they use as their primary source of internet access.  As a developer I have watched the numbers skew over the last few years on the large site that I maintain professionally…  and previously we used to see 10-15% of our users coming in off mobile devices.  Now that has reached a point where 49% of our users are either on phones or tablets, which has created a massive shift in how we approach content.  It is not shocking that game developers have started to do exactly the same thing.  I may not be super happy with this trend, but I am now at least starting to understand it a bit more.

Bedtime Mobile Gaming

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So one of the things you need to understand about my brain, that may or may not have been evident from this blog…  is that I go through a bit of a cycle when I hear something that conflicts with what I currently perceive as my core interests.  First I rebel against the idea, and then as that calms down…  I go on a sort of quest to understand it.  For example… I have talked about this before but I was an Alpha tester on Guild Wars 2…  and it is the only games test that I resigned from.  It was a super restrictive test that I had to get forms notarized and turn back in, so resigning seemed like the thing to do rather than simply never playing again.  However once the game released I kept throwing myself at it like a puzzle that I simply could not crack.  It took me years to fully comprehend why it was that people seemed to like it so much, and reach a place of peace with the game that allowed me to finally accept that it was just not for me.  Similarly this whole Diablo Immortal thing has caused me to push deeper into mobile gaming, because I feel like it has been this entire segment of the market that I never really understood the appeal of.

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Pokemon Go really was the first mobile game that I actually cared about.  It was this specific combination of “everyone was doing it”, mixed with a familiar IP in the form of Pokemon, and also doing some really interesting things with location aware services and augmented reality (even though I largely left that shit turned off all the time).  While I still technically pop it open when I am bored… I am nowhere near as active as I once was.  There are a few PokeStops on the way into the building at work, but I am not going out and actively seeking things to capture like I did when the game first was released.  Admittedly the instability back at launch probably kept this from moving from a thing I casually use…  to a thing I am actively playing…  given that at one point I was going out pretty much every night to catch stuff.

The core problem with Pokemon Go is that it is not an equitable experience for all players.  When I am at work in the core of downtown Tulsa, there is a constant stream of activity…  however once I retreat back to my sleepy suburb there is nothing at all.  I can walk a lap of my neighborhood and maybe encounter two Pokemon, both of which from what I term the trash variety that you commonly find everywhere.  Additionally the focus on face to face interaction made trading just not something that I would ever care about… because most of my friends who play Pokemon are not near me.  So it feels like  game I dabble in but is very much not for me.

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Another game that I have recently started playing is The Walking Dead Our World, which takes the general concept of Pokemon Go but applies it to zombie survival.  I’m a fan of the show even though it has figuratively jumped the shark a handful of times at this point.  They have been advertising this game for a few seasons and it finally got me curious enough to download and install it.  The biggest positive I have to talk about it is that it does not shred your battery in the way that Pokemon Go does, nor does it seem to only care about urban hubs.  Out in the burbs there is a constant flow of zombie infestations for me to clear out.  The only negative however is it doesn’t really reward moving around anywhere near as much as it probably should.  I can sit in bed and clear out a half dozen objectives without actually getting out into the community and finding other objectives.  I’ve recently joined a clan or whatever the hell they call them, and it adds another dimension to the game because it feels like I am contributing to larger objectives in the form of a weekly challenge card of sorts that rewards a ton of resources each time you finish one out.  Definitely an interesting game, but also one that I only play because fiddling around on my phone has become my before I go to sleep activity.

dragalialost-2I have talked at length about Dragalia Lost being the game that largely convinced me that an ARPG would work on a mobile phone.  While I still enjoy it, I have very much ended up in maintenance mode with it.  I log in each night and work through the daily objectives, then make sure a bunch of stuff is building in my castle before logging out and on to the next thing.  I am not really spending much time actually doing content in the game apart from if there is an event going on.  Once again this game has not really elevated to the realm of “I would rather play it over more traditional games”.  For my friend Grace however, it has and she is spending a good deal more time playing it than playing other titles at the moment.  The truth is the only real reason why I have been playing so many mobile games is…  my phone hurts way less than the switch when I inevitably drop it on my face.

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With the Diablo Immortal announcement, there were a lot of folks talking about how it looked like a “reskin” of another game they released called Crusaders of Light.  I decided to check this out for myself, and I guess if you are just looking at the user interface they do look really similar.  Then again most mobile MMOs that I have seen have a very similar interface, and if you think about it most first person shooters these days use exactly the same control scheme.  Games tend to land on a thing that works and then keep doing that thing over and over.  As far as play however it feels more like a mobile World of Warcraft, if I am being completely honest about it.  There really isn’t much about it that feels Action RPG.  As far as play… the controls are not great and the game highly suggests that you auto navigate to your objectives…  which I completely agree with.  However while doing this it feels sorta like the game is playing you more than you playing the game.

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For reference I also started piddling around in Lineage II Revolution, which quite honestly does a lot of the same things.  In fact it is probably more so with an auto questing mode that not only navigates you to the target but also starts attacking it.  Weirdly however I find myself liking this title way more than Crusaders of Light, even though it actually asks way less of me to play it.  You can of course go offroad at any point, and I have found myself killing three or four times the number of mobs that a given quest has asked me to.  Again I am largely doing the auto nav thing to make up for the fact that mobile navigation feels so horrible in the first place.  Were I playing any of these games with a controller, then life would be completely different.  Mostly this is all part of my brain trying to grok what trends there are and what is popular apart from the obvious Gacha mechanics that seem to exist in all of them.

The biggest problem I have with mobile games is that I find I burn out of them way faster than traditional PC games.  I tend to cycle through them like a bored toddler, so I do my maintenance gaming in one…  then move on to the next one.  At some point my brain realizes that I am only ever doing maintenance tasks and start checking out of it completely.  I don’t even have Fire Emblem Heroes installed on my phone anymore, nor did I actually make it all of the way through that quest.  Similarly I no longer have Final Fantasy Record Keeper installed, in spite of previously devoting a bunch of time of this “boredom time” to it.  While I am on this mission, I am definitely open to suggestions.  Is there anything you are playing on a mobile device that is more along the lines of a traditional game?  I am not looking for puzzle games like Alphabear, because I already play a handful of those as well.

More ARPGs

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Yesterday I talked about a few ARPGs I had been playing as an attempt to get the Diablo Immortal thing out of my system.  Since then a handful of you have suggested other games to me, and I thought I would take a moment this morning to talk about a few competitors for the “next great ARPG” crown that I have spent some time playing.  This has always been a genre that appealed to me, so as something new comes down the pipe I tend to check it out at least for a bit.  These projects seem especially popular on Kickstarter because everyone seems to have loved Diablo 2 and wants to build a better version of it.  That can be a positive or a negative, especially considering post Diablo 3 I found it almost impossible to go back and play Diablo 2 again.

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We will start off with the weirdest entry in the list first, largely because it does a lot of things…  not like other games.  First off this is primarily a WASD game with your primary attack being on Left Mouse click and Q and E being secondary attacks and Right Mouse serving to spin the camera around.  It takes some getting used to, and a lot of people prefer to play this with a controller as a result.  However I found it to be an interesting blend of movement that really landed well for me personally.  I wrote a more proper review of this back in 2016, but honestly it is still worth checking out.  I do not currently have this installed but that might be changing soon as it is a good option to dig back into.

Steam Link but also available on several consoles

Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr

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One of the core problems with Games Workshop licensed games is they vary greatly in quality.  As a result when I see a new one pop up I am immediately suspicious and throwing more than a little side-eye.  However occasionally my curiosity gets the best of me and I try one of them.  This one however was really fun… up until a point which unfortunately for me happens to be the fifth mission.  I have always hated “protect the idiots” missions and in general I hate the tower defense mechanic.  This mission unfortunately incorporates both elements, where not only do you have to survive a wave of assaulting chaos forces and defend a point…  but you also have to keep your idiot guardsmen alive in the process.  If I can get over this frustrating hurdle the game will probably go right back to being a really fun amalgam of Diablo and the Warhammer 40,000 universe that I love.

Steam Link

Grim Dawn

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This is probably the best ARPG that is not Diablo 3 if I am going to be completely honest with myself.  The setting is interesting because effectively you are roaming a world after what is effectively a demonic invasion.  It feels as though you are running around a post apocalyptic version of our world, and they get big points with me for including shotguns as a viable and balanced weapon choice option.  This was I believe initially built upon the Titan Quest engine… which is another really awesome but aging APRG.  However the game feels like it has long moved past that and is now sort of its own thing.  I’ve never made it terribly far into the game because it feels very slow paced, which is a lot of the problem I have with most of the “we remember Diablo 2 and wanted to create a better version” games.

Steam Link

Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem

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Now we enter the realm of the “still in alpha” competitors, with Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem.  This is probably my favorite of the modern ARPGs but it is still very much rooted into the “lots of things are broken” range of games.  It is fun enough to play around with but the last I really played this seriously… there were moments where the difficulty seemed to be stacked against melee characters.  Other than playing a Demon Hunter to rapidly unlock seasonal content occasionally…  if an ARPG doesn’t feel good in melee then it probably isn’t something I am going to stick around for long.  That however was back in February and I am sure they have tweaked a lot of things in the meantime.  I should give it another proper look and see how it feels now.

Steam Link

Last Epoch

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Another game from the “super alpha” territory is Last Epoch.  This is one of the ones that Ashgar specifically has suggested a few times, because it does look really interesting.  As a result I took the $50 hit so you don’t have to, because right now that is the cheapest supporter package that grants you instant alpha access.  I played around for a very short time last night, largely because it has two key flaws in my mind… that admittedly may change over time.  Firstly the classes appear to be gender locked, and while that is a super common thing in asian arpgs… it pisses me the fuck off.  Yes I realize both Diablo and Diablo 2 had gendered characters, but we should have moved past that.  Granted again this might just be something they have done before there is not a proper character creator in place yet so I am letting this one slide for the moment.  The other major issue is the fact that movement and basic attack are not the same key…  so as it is set up right now you move with left click and attack with right click…  leading for a really goofy feeling experience.  This is going to be one of those games like Wolcen that I pop my head into periodically to see how it has improved.

Supporter Page Link

Hellgate: London

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Now we are going to take a jaunt into the territory of my favorite Diablo game that is not Diablo…  and that is Hellgate: London.  I am one of a handful of people who still carry around a bright glowing torch for this game, largely because I love both what it was… and am wistful about what it might have been.  There are ways to still play the original game, and there is even a modding community to make it look better…  but the above screenshot is from the Hanbitsoft version of the game released in South Korea and occasionally has been available for english speaking players.  This is relevant because on November 15th this game is returning and will be available on Steam.  I really don’t know much about what that is going to entail, other than the fact that we are supposedly getting the base game and all of the expansions that were released in South Korea.  I’ve talked about this so many times, but here is a specific post from 2015 about trying to get back into the game.  Even though this coincides with the launch of Fallout 76… you can damned well bet I will be checking this out on the 15th of this month.

Steam Link

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So the only problem is… that I have rattled off a list of alternatives to Diablo 3… but none of them really fully cover the things I like about it.  I love the fast paced and frenetic gameplay that comes when you get together with a bunch of your friends and run things like Rifts or in the case of this screenshot… consume a ring and go fight Greed.  It does a very specific thing that no other game really is doing, that is largely because I love Diablo 3…  not in a begrudging way like so many fans of the franchise have over the years… but I legitimately love all of the changes that were made.  While I loved Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 at the time…  I wholeheartedly love what Diablo 3 became.  Granted that is love of a post seasonal Diablo 3, long after the RMT auction house bullshit was removed and the legendary drop rates greatly fixed.  However it just does a thing that none of the games above are really doing for me, and as a result…  I will still be depressed and disappointed that we didn’t get that Diablo 4 announcement.

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That said I am absolutely not one of those people who is going to refuse to play Diablo Immortal.  I am going to try it out but I have huge fingers and mobile screens are tiny…  so I might need to try and figure out a reasonable android tablet option to make it feel not horrible.   I am already running into this issue with Dragalia Lost and some of the other mobile games that I have been dipping my toes into in order to sort of prepare my Psyche for the existence of this thing.  I am still disappointed and still think it was a poor time to make this announcement, but I am not going to rage against it existing… because there is plenty of room for games that aren’t for me to exist in the world.  However it also doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it.

 

Mythical Blizzard Gamer

This is going to probably be a bit of an odd post, and additionally I am typing it up the night before I intend to post it.  It also went significantly longer than I had intended… but once it started rolling I just kinda went with it. May god have mercy on your souls.  However there has been a topic that I have been kicking around in my head for some time now and I am not sure quite how to pull it out. To say this post is inspired by the Diablo Immortal reveal by Blizzard is true, but I feel like I am going to go off in a different direction, more specifically about the culture surrounding Blizzcon in general.

I can’t claim to have been a Blizzard fan forever.  I am pretty certain that I played Lost Vikings, Blackthorne and Rock and Roll Racing… but in truth none of them really imprinted hard on my psyche.  I was aware of the existence of Warcraft: Orcs and Humans but did not really buy into Blizzard games as a whole until I picked up a copy of the Warcraft Battle Chest.  In fact I remember exactly when and where I purchased it… it was at the now defunct Sam’s Club in Springdale Arkansas.

Playing through the campaign of Warcraft II was really fun, but honestly that game probably would not have imprinted so hard on my psyche were it not for the fact that the college computer lab effectively had a copy installed on every computer with a CD Crack applied so we could have massive LAN battles.  At home I even crafted my very first network to play the game, connecting two PCs together with Coax and running the native windows NetBEUI protocol to get them talking to each other.

Blizzard really got a seemingly lifelong fan in me when Starcraft was released, and with it I finally had the way to play a simulacrum of my beloved Warhammer 40,000 on my PC.  Essentially each time Blizzard released a game I got into it, and I remember being in the beta test for Diablo and playing it connected to the campus network on one of the desktops in the very small and very fast Fine Arts building computer lab that I managed.  

I was completely hooked…  much like Starcraft is Warhammer 40k…  Diablo was essentially the D&D game I always wanted to play, since I tend to be a “roll player” not a “role player”.  I remember when Diablo 2 released I had to make the choice… do I get it… or did I get Icewind Dale since they released on exactly the same day in 2000.  I followed my real passion to Diablo 2 and was once again amazed at just how cool the game was in its second outing. Years later we were still playing it in a lan environment and keeping a computer running at friends house just to serve as a way of keeping the game open…  and preserving our makeshift guild stash.

When Blizzard dipped its toes into the fledgling MMORPG genre I was also on board.  At that point I was already an Everquest junkie, and had moved on to Dark Age of Camelot, Horizon and then was playing City of Heroes when I got into one of the stress tests.  It was that first weekend somewhere during the summer of 2004 that I was completely smitten, and found myself unable to return to playing City of Heroes after experiencing what the MMO genre could be.

BlizzCon was the convention that World of Warcraft built, and it became the premiere event for WoW fans to attend each year.  For those of us sitting on the sidelines it became the primary feed of information about what was coming down the pipe. Over the years I watched with bated breath as each new expansion was announced, and similarly watched as new products were released.  

Not all of which were necessarily targeted towards me, but that was okay… because the primary focus of the convention seemed to focus on the things I was interested in…  namely World of Warcraft and eventually Diablo 3 was added to that mix. Then somewhere along the way things started to shift focus, and events like the live raid were replaced with more competitive esports coverage.  I was still completely on board for the release of StarCraft II, because it would pick up and continue the story of the first game. Then after beating the story mode… realized that I just didn’t quite like RTS games the way I used to.  

I was largely on board with Hearthstone initially…  but then I realized that I didn’t like it quite as much as I did Magic the Gathering.  Overwatch seemed really cool, but apart from the cinematics… I realized that it was largely Blizzard does Team Fortress 2… and I never really played much of that game either.  Heroes of the Storm seemed like a really cool take on League of Legends… but again I remembered that MOBAs never really hooked me.

However through all of it I had World of Warcraft and Diablo to care about, because those franchises always spoke to my beating heart.  The problem there is that World of Warcraft is in a constant state of flux and chaos and there are expansion that I love… like Wrath and Legion…  and expansions that I would rather forget like Cataclysm, Warlords and the current Battle for Azeroth. Once the spell was initially broken in 2011…  my interest in the game purely depended on whether or not the content spoke to me.

Diablo on the other hand had become a ritual with some of my friends as we log in every new season and grind up a set of characters to collect the cosmetic rewards…  only to disappear for another three months until the next seasonal launch. The Necromancer pack gave me a lot of hope that maybe just maybe they would start releasing class packs and give us the Assassin, Druid or Amazon along with lots of other potentially cool characters that I am certain they could dream up along the way.

However Diablo 3 has largely been in maintenance mode for a very long time, and the fan base has been running on fumes.  During the 2017 Opening Ceremonies of Blizzcon they didn’t even acknowledge the existence of the game. It had been a long six years since the release of the game, and with so many people leaving that team… it felt more or less like the game that Blizzard forgot.  For the past three years my Diablo friends and I have spent the weeks ahead of the convention daydreaming about what a possible announcement might look like… only to get our hopes dashed and eventually adopt a resigned attitude of “maybe next year”.

As far as the Diablo Immortal announcement… and the fan reaction…  it comes from a place of desperation and heartache as we have watched the franchise we love, get ignored…  in spite of having a super dedicated and passionate community. The core problem is that Blizzard never figured out how to itemize it… after the massive failure that was the real money auction house.  Its like with that defeat they just stopped trying, and instead moved on to other games that they could easily shim in a regular stream of micro transactions to fill the coffers.

There is a similar thread running through the last three games that Blizzard released…  Hearthstone in 2014, Heroes of the Storm in 2015, and Overwatch in 2016. Each of them has a heavy esports focus with lots of bite sized ways to spend money with Blizzard to acquire nifty ways to set yourself apart from the other players.  Diablo doesn’t have this, and while I would love to literally throw money at my screen to help fund this game that I love… Blizzard has given us no way of doing this. Starcraft at least has a thriving esports scene which at a minimum keeps that game alive and kicking, or at least guarantees that fan base some air time when it comes to Blizzcon.

I think Diablo Immortal is an attempt to take a model that is well researched…  microtransaction driven mobile games… and apply a design pattern that has already been copied in literally hundreds of diablo clones.  I am sure it will be enjoyable enough, and I am sure I will likely play it… given that I have seemingly recently discovered that I don’t hate playing games on my phone.  However it will never feel anywhere as good because the concept of controlling a game with a touch screen interface just feels awful.

What will end up happening is that if I play it… I will play it through one of the many Android emulators like BlueStacks and try my best to map the touch screen controls to something that doesn’t feel awful to play with.  I wish I could do this with Dragalia Lost to be honest, but unfortunately Nintendo is actively blocking access to the game when connecting through an emulator… and the only way you can make it work is to do a bunch of shenanigans that probably risk an account ban to make it happen.

The other thing that I have realized is that I am not a Blizzard Gamer anymore, and quite honestly I am not sure if anyone really is.  There was a time when I legitimately felt like I was equally interested in everything coming out of Blizzard as a games studio. There is no denying the pedigree of quality, and I thought if they were doing it… I wanted in on the action.  The problem being that I am just not that interested in a bunch of the games that they have in their active stable.

I love the setting of Overwatch…  but would have loved the game as an MMO or story driven ARPG.  The competitive nature of it just doesn’t appeal to me, nor does grinding bots… so it sits there as a game I am willing to play with a full group of friends but have zero interest at any other time.  Heroes of the Storm is much the same way, where I like the concept and feel like they nailed the execution of the MOBA genre… but I would far rather have a dungeon crawler with MOBA character design.  Similarly I am willing to play it with a full group of friends.

Hearthstone seemed like a game that I would really love, but I never really reached a point where I found my groove with it.  I have Hunter and Warrior decks, and they are both tolerable, but nothing that game is doing ever feels anywhere near as good as Magic the Gathering did to me.  Magic the Gathering Arena on the other hand is the game I always wanted to exist and with its release, any desire to play or follow Hearthstone eclipsed.

The diversity of product offering essentially precludes someone from deeply caring about literally everything in their stable of games.  As a result it also makes BlizzCon feel really weird to watch. To listen to Blizzard they are addressing a group of people supposedly equally interested in every single thing they are making…  and that facade has been crumbling over the last few years. I remember the first BlizzCon in which World of Warcraft was not center stage, and the generally negative reaction I saw among the community.

If you go to a PAX you know you are going to be seeing a lot of games that fit different demographics, and as such you have no reasonable expectation that they should ALL interest you.  However for some reason BlizzCon feels a little different, and if you aren’t equally devoted to all things Blizzard it feels like you are somehow faking your fandom. Now if you are at the convention on the show floor it probably does not feel this way at all… but as a perineal viewer of the virtual ticket… the hardcore perky sales pitch being delivered by the announcers makes it seem like they expect everyone to care about everything.

I feel like Blizzard has maybe outgrown BlizzCon.  It was originally the convention that World of Warcraft built, but that game is no longer the cash king that it once was and has been eclipsed by several other titles with significantly cheaper to produce content.  I feel like maybe we would be better off with a sequence of smaller events with a more specific purpose. I feel like FFXIV and Fanfest maybe has it right… whereas they hold a sequence of events in the same year they are announcing a big expansion to the game.  In this idea I would absolutely try my damnedest to travel to a DiabloCon if it existed.

Ultimately I think at this point Blizzard is no longer one cohesive group of gamers, aligned with similar goals and motivations. There are instead a group devoted to each one of their games with fairly limited crossover between them.  The problem with this is that it sets up the feel of a zero sum game, where if one group of fans is getting content… then the other groups of fans aren’t. It is hard to see the children from the new marriage getting all of the attention, while the aging kids are largely left to fend for themselves.  

So while I felt all of the outrage and frustration that the rest of the community did…  I chose to take it in a different direction. Instead of writing a hateful post about how Blizzard has wronged me… I wound up writing this nonsensically long ballad of how I am just now realizing that I just am not the gamer Blizzard is really courting anymore.  My blog is often my way of dealing with things… and this is me working through those frustrations in a written form. I sincerely doubt anyone will actually make it to end of this one… but if you did I thank you for indulging me.

 

IntPiPoMo 2018

intpipomo2018

Yesterday did not go according to plan, and as a result I wound up not making a post at all.  Essentially I woke up at 5:15 yesterday morning and by the time I finished showering and checked into the world around 5:30 I noticed that we had a major system down at work.  This caused me to leap into crisis mode and instead of going upstairs to blog, I went upstairs to remote in and try and assess the situation.  As such you got a brief tweet stating that there would be no post and I moved on with what turned out to be an eleven hour day.  I had intentions of making a post last night, but by the time I made it home I was mentally soup.  I had some awesome tamales from the coney place down the street and largely avoided any mentally strenuous activity.

The only problem with this is that I missed out on making a post for an initiative that has been going on for several years in the blogosphere…  but that I have never actually participated in.  Everyone knows about NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, where you are challenged to crank out 50,000 words worth of cohesive prose that can in theory get edited into a novel that makes sense.  I participated in that initiative back in 2013 and wound up live blogging it as I progressed through the goal of writing 50,000 words.  You can see the rough and unedited form here in a series of posts that I started cross linking at some point.  The sad part is I never really made it much further than this…  there is a google doc floating out there with some edits done but I feel like at some point I largely just need to nuke this from orbit and rewrite the entire thing.

intpipomo2018

IntPiPoMo plays on the statement that a picture is worth a thousand words, and if NaNoWriMo requires you to crank out 50,000 words….  then IntPiPoMo asks you to post 50 pictures/screenshots/whatever during the month of November.  This initiative started back in 2011 and has changed hands a few times until it landed in the lap of my good friend Chestnut who was insanely helpful during the recent running of Blaugust.  Admittedly I have never really set out to participate since I felt like it would be cheating…  given that my blog is already super screenshot heavy.  During the month of October as an example I posted just shy of 100 pictures associated with my blog posts.  However she indicated that this didn’t matter and that I should sign up anyways…  and as a result I am going to be supporting this process with Aggronaut.  If you also feel like participating then you should totally check out her post outlining all of the specifics.  There is a very short sign up process and an image seen above that you can incorporate into your side bar as I have done with mine (albeit scaled down a bit since my sidebar is narrow).

randomshottool

One of the things I am sorta known for is my nonsensical storage of screenshots.  I have a network attached storage device full of loosely organized screenshots from the various games I have played, and at some point I wanted a way to just randomly pick a few shots from the pile.  I thought this was an easy way to do a post when I wasn’t necessarily feeling up to writing something more well formed.  The idea being I have the tool pick a few screenshots and then write something about each of them.  This is largely something that I built for my own purposes but if you are interested I threw it up on GitHub at the suggestion of a few folks.  If you are interested I highly suggest you grab the source code and download Visual Studio Community edition to compile it yourself just to make sure it is completely safe.  If you don’t feel comfortable with that I have uploaded a compiled and ready to run version of it out on TinyUpload.com.  If you get stuck on trying to decide what screenshots to use on a given day, a tool like this might come in handy.

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As an example I decided to use it myself this morning and grabbed 3 random screenshots from the stack.  This one is from the PC Beta of Destiny 2 and I largely know this… because the file is named “Desktop Screenshot” because annoying the only way I can get Destiny 2 to capture is by running it Borderless Windowed and capturing it with Nvidia Experience…  which probably has another name for the screenshot functionality but I don’t know what it is.  I am consistently annoyed that I cannot use a more proper capture technique to grab Destiny 2, but regardless that has nothing to do with the screenshot itself.  I have dozens and dozens of screenshots of the “warp” graphic from Destiny 2 because I think it is so damned pretty.  This is probably one of the first ones I captured during that PC Beta, and it is making me want to go equip that ship again in the live game for nostalgia sake.

landmark64-2014-03-28-06-13-28-23

This is a screenshot from Everquest Landmark Alpha…  and I am not sure if this was the first reset or the second reset.  I am pretty sure this is from the first alpha because I believe I had a better plot when the first major reset happened.  Regardless I miss the hell out of this game, because quite frankly it was one of my favorite building games.  I loved the tools that it gave us to build really interesting shapes… and then create templates off of them.  I also loved the way that you could harvest with a group… and all get the loot that was harvested by any one member of that team.  I remember running around with Lethbridge and Rae running amok harvesting everything in sight and all reaping the benefits.  I wish someone would functionally reboot this idea in a modern crafting game.  Part of the reason why I have a dislike of Daybreak is admittedly because deep down inside I blame them for the death of Landmark.

wow-64-2016-10-09-15-46-46-80

One of the cooler things about Legion were the hidden artifact appearances.  One of them for the Warrior involved finding a shield that looks like Deathwing in a cavern full of Kobolds.  What made it frustrating however was that it was a random chance sort of thing, and you had a single chance each day at getting it to show up.  It became a ritual on my Warrior to log out at the cave every night, and then check it first thing in the morning and again that night just in case it was on the daily reset cycle and not on the server time cycle.  I even had a macro that would tell me whether or not the shield had showed up… just to make sure that I didn’t miss it.  The day that it finally showed up for me was extremely exciting, and as a result I took a screenshot for my blog before actually looting it.