Assorted Blizzard Topic

diablo-immortal-gameplay-1

diablo-immortal-gameplay-1

This morning I am going to apologize to anyone who actively reads either my Twitter feed or my Fediverse feed.  Those tend to be the platform where I make extemporaneous commentary and in the moment reactions to whatever happens to be on my mind.  Often time those statements end up getting distilled down into a blog post once more time and distance has passed.  Yesterday I spouted off in thread form on Twitter about the Activision/Blizzard layoffs and this morning I still feel the need to talk about it so I am cobbling together something in blog post form.  For those who have not been following this story it has been something looming on the horizon for awhile as Blizzard had gone into cost cutting measures and offered a number of employees buyout packages to voluntarily leave the company.  So these actions are something we had all been fearing would be happening, especially after the massive stock hit that came with the announcement of Bungie’s departure from the agreement with the publisher.

For those who have not been following this…  it was not a great year for Activision Blizzard as a whole in the public opinion area, however this did not stop them from making record profits this past year.  In 2017 they had a net profit of $273 million and in 2018 they realized a record $1.8 billion dollars in profit.  This is what makes the 800 layoffs feel all the more like “Snidely Whiplash tying Nell to the railroad tracks” evil.  I’ve not been able to verify as of yet who is and is not effected from the folks that I knew who were still working for Blizzard.  However among my circle of friends a good number of those friends of friends got the axe.  This whole sequence has been extremely frustrating and depressing to see play out on social media as so many people are scrambling to find a home in another studio.  Based on a few examples told to me in confidence, it appears that a good chunk will be trying to make their exit from games development in general for sake of stability.

There is a medium article that came out yesterday from Patrick Beja that is worth reading that goes over his thoughts about the whole situation and summarizes some statements that he had made earlier in the lead up.  There are a couple of specific sections that struck a chord with me, but I call one out in particular.

The other thing I often hear is “they’re only developing F2P mobile games that SUCK”. First, we don’t know they’ll suck. And second, I don’t know why they’d stop developing PC games that make money. Did you not enjoy Overwatch or Hearthstone or Heroes of the Storm? If you didn’t, you haven’t liked Blizzard for a long time… But if you did, maybe you’ll think the next PC games they release will be good too.

This was something that was hard to hear because since the release of Starcraft Blizzard has been a company that I held up on a pedestal as being quite possibly the ultimate end goal of what working in the games industry could be like.  I have obsessed over so many over their games and loved the artistry and craftsmanship that went into them.  However seeing that statement in print made a point ring true.  I love the Blizzard of the past and not necessarily the Blizzard of the here and now.  Now we are not talking about expansion content here…  but the last new game that they released that I have really enjoyed on a large level was Diablo 3 from 2012.  That means that for the last seven years they have not produced something that really interested me.  While I have rabidly eaten up every bit of expansion content for Diablo 3…  World of Warcraft and I have a much spottier record with liking some expansions like Legion and largely loathing some expansions like Cataclysm.  Effectively though…  I didn’t so much love Blizzard but instead loved those two games.

To preface some of what I have said in thread form…  Overwatch is a universe that I really like but with a game attached to it that I have no real interest in playing.  Hearthstone was a game I was interested in and dabbled with occasionally… but all of that interest died the moment I got my hands on MTG Arena and got what I had wanted all along.  Heroes of the Storm academically is a better game for me than League of Legends…  but I don’t really like either enough to play them on a regular basis and I have no interest at all in solo queuing.  Battle for Azeroth was probably the thing that caused Blizzard the most damage in my eyes because it went in the opposite direction that I wanted the franchise to go.  Legion gave me hope of us moving towards a class based narrative and away from the big dumb red versus blue crap we have had forced upon us for years.  However the narrative felt hollow and the gameplay was not really interesting enough to keep me attached to it as everything felt like rehashed versions of things we had already seen in one form or another before.

Diablo is the franchise that Blizzard created that I probably care the most about, and the handling of the Immortal announcement stung.  I am actually looking forward to that game, because I think it will be something fun to play from bed while I drift off much like I do currently with Dragalia Lost.  However we are hungry for more core Diablo gameplay and every year I have waited with so much built up hope for the eventual announcement of Diablo 4 that never quite comes.  Now I am more or less tired of waiting and have redoubled my efforts to explore the various alternatives like Torchlight Frontiers, Pagan Online and games I already have access to like Grim Dawn.  I fully support the Diablo team because they caught a bullet that was not necessarily intended for them.  However that does not mean my personal goodwill and hopefulness did not take a hit.

The layoffs have really driven home how disconnected I have become from Blizzard games in general.  Right now the only thing in the Blizzard launcher that sees much in the way of playtime is Destiny 2, and it is one of those games in limbo since Bungie left the fold.  I made an attempt to start this season of Diablo 3 but for various reason I never really latched onto it and didn’t even make it a quarter of the way to the level cap.  I’ve not really played World of Warcraft since October, in spite of logging in one or twice in November…  and effectively logging right back out again.  Blizzard currently is not producing anything that is really exciting me, and I am finding that excitement in other places which is nothing terribly new to be honest.  I have always been a WoW Tourist over the years… where I would disappear for a few months but return eventually to keep playing.  That said however the longest that I have gone without playing the game since 2012 is a couple of four month long breaks.

Unless there is a drastic change in direction that makes significant effort to bury the hatchet of the dumb faction conflict storyline…  I am not sure if I will be back.  Battle for Azeroth is the first World of Warcraft expansion not to make the AggroChat Games of the Year show, and quite honestly it is the first expansion I regret pre-0ordering and playing.  The future of me and Blizzard largely hinges upon if they make good on giving me a Diablo game that I want, which is a sorta depressing thing to say.  One thing that I want to talk about at the end however is that I don’t blame anyone other than myself for this.  I think the workers at Blizzard need our support desperately right now, because it has to be a very scary time for those who survived this round of cuts.  For those who didn’t…  we need to do whatever we can to help them out during this transition.

That is a point that I have always made throughout the years is that even if I am struggling to like a company…  it has nothing to do with how I feel about its employees.  Everyone works their asses off to make the best damned game they can.  When we talk badly about their work, it often feels like a kick in the gut after they probably gave up so much of their own life to crunch through the release of that product.  I see you all out there and appreciate what you try your level best to provide me a fun entertainment experience.  I am always reluctant when I start criticizing something because I don’t want it to feel like I am kicking the poor folks who helped to build it.  Lets be honest… many of us had daydreams of working in the games industry.  However I saw early on that it was not exactly a path of stability and I went down a path that would give me that security blanket that I craved.  That does not however mean that I don’t respect the fuck out of everyone that is making these games for me…  and for people who are not my specific arrangement of tastes.

The take away from this post is not that Blizzard is bad because we have grown apart.  I just find it weird that I can say something like that and actually mean it.  I am however frustrated with the hell that is being unleashed upon the good people that make up the company.  If you ever need someone to talk to my DMs are open.

Multiplayer Conundrum

desktop-screenshot-2019-02-12-22-04-11-83

desktop-screenshot-2019-02-12-22-04-11-83

Last night was a really weird night for me, where I spent a significant amount of time doing things OTHER than playing games.  I logged into Final Fantasy XIV pretty early but had the very annoying fight that I had been struggling with the night before ahead of me.  So I found myself alt tabbed out of Parsec and doing other things…  like watching a whole bunch of videos on YouTube.  Yesterday was one of those days where everything was stacked together so tightly that I felt like I was jumping from meeting to meeting without any real pauses between… and before I knew it was 5:30 and I felt like I had accomplished nothing.

desktop-screenshot-2019-02-12-21-21-34-78

When I got home I fixed us some dinner and largely went into a vegetative state, and part of this was avoiding actually doing the thing that I logged into Final Fantasy XIV to do that night.  On some level I think I just couldn’t handle the failure that was inevitably going to happen.  However around 9 ish I finally started working on the quest and sure enough I failed the first attempt.  However on the second try I made it through to the Y’shtola phase…  which honestly seemed really hard to fail.  It was an interesting encounter but way the hell to long, and the margins for failure were way the hell to slim for a story quest.  I am however up to patch 4.5 which I believe is still the latest story content patch, and will likely begin that tonight.

The other day Pentapod/Dominoposted a twitter poll of sorts asking players why they prefer to play otherwise multiplayer games solo.  This is a bit of a loaded topic and I chimed into the thread with my own thoughts but never quite made them in a blog format.  The above twitter post includes the follow up that shows that the vast majority of the reasoning behind why…  is issues of player toxicity.  For me personally it is a bit more nuanced than that but toxicity is definitely a huge problem that keeps me away from any game where voice chat with strangers is forced or at least heavily suggested.

For me the issue comes from something that I have noticed over the years and have talked a bit about on this blog.  The more responsibility I have thrust upon me in the real world…  the less I want to be entangled with it in the virtual world.  When I was working thankless dead end jobs, I looked to World of Warcraft, the House Stalwart Guild and the then Duranub Raiding Company raid to provide me structure in my life and give me some semblance of control.  However as I moved jobs and arrived at a place where I was deeply appreciated… and as a result given more and more responsibility…  I found myself withdrawing significantly from guild leadership and even recently from raiding at all.

When I group with other players I feel responsible for not only myself but for the enjoyment of others.  I am just wired that way and I think it is in part why I have always leaned on tanking classes as my window into the virtual world.  However since January of last year I have had fifteen human beings relying on me every single day for their survival and job satisfaction at work…  I just cannot handle going home at night and taking on that responsibility for putting myself out there to organize things.  As a result I have found myself spending almost all of my time playing solo in MMORPGs or playing some truly single player gaming experience.  I traded that responsibility for others that I used to cherish in games…  for applying those same guild and raid leader skills to the workplace.

The end result however is frustrating because I have found myself withdrawing from even what I would consider the safest of places and instead erecting mental blocks against those activities that thrust me in with a bunch of other players.  I’ve found it extremely difficult to bring myself to queue as my Warrior main in FFXIV because I am just not sure if I can deal with having to feel responsible for the success or failure of an encounter.  The time-shift for the Seattle crew has also harmed this a bit, but there is a significant gathering of East and Central players in the Final Fantasy XIV free company that would be more than willing to do anything I ever wanted to do with me.

At some point I have to rip the band-aid off and get back into the swing of things.  However there are so many nights like last night where I allow myself to find alternate diversions.  I am looking forward to Anthem as some what of a clean start.  However I spent almost all of my time in the demo playing alone, either doing missions solo or roaming around aimlessly in free play.  However on the Anthem front… reminder that you can begin loading the game through Origin at Noon Central today.

 

Puppet Strings

img_20190211_075247

img_20190211_075247

Yesterday was not an amazing day, but there are times you figure someone is out there pulling your puppet strings.  When I left the house I had intended to go get donuts for my team and then head into the office. However I failed to grab the drink I made for myself…  so I had on my brain that I needed to get a drink.  Where do I usually do that… QuikTrip, however for some reason I auto piloted my way to the busiest QuikTrip in town that I never go to in the morning because it has a ton of High School kids hanging out there.  So I go inside and get a drink and am maybe away from my car for five minutes… and when I come back out…  I insert the key into the ignition and nothing.  No sign of any electrical at all… and to make it worse the key will not remove from the ignition.

After doing some googling I realize that if the battery is completely dead the ignition sometimes holds onto the key for some reason as there is a servo that holds it in place.  Now something of note…  I’ve gone through three batteries in a little over six months.  The first battery made some semblance of sense because I figure it was the original to the vehicle.  The second battery…  well maybe it was just a lemon and it was under warranty so while it was a hassle and stranded me at this exact same QuikTrip in 20 degree weather…  it was on a weekend and manageable.  The third battery however…  we are getting into “there has to be a larger cause” territory.  Each time I have had the vehicle in the shop the electrical system tested out fine.

Yesterday instead of bringing it to the same place that I got all of the batteries swapped at… I brought it to the dealership hoping that maybe just maybe they would have more Chevy specific diagnostic information.  The best that they could come up with is that the battery cables were garaged on the end that connects to the vehicle not the battery.  So they swapped those out and swapped the battery that was not toast and I was on my way by mid day.   However it pretty much killed all of the first part of my day and nothing says fun like trying to attend conference calls from a busy car dealership lobby.

I am really hoping when I go out to turn my vehicle on this morning that everything just works.  They think they found the source of the problems but at this point I am just paranoid.  When I said that sometimes a puppet master is out there pulling the strings…  what I meant by that is had I not caught this in the morning I would have instead caught it after about 5:30 at night…  while my vehicle was in a downtown parking garage without an easy way to load it up and tow it.  We would have likely had to push it down and out of the garage to be able to tow it at all given there isn’t enough height clearance for a tow truck to get in there and back out with a vehicle on the trailer.

desktop-screenshot-2019-02-11-21-53-17-18

As far as gaming goes…  I made an attempt at the quest I had been stalled out in Final Fantasy XIV but however didn’t realize there was just about to be a server reset.  As such I made it through the first part of the fight… only to find out there is a whole OTHER part of the fight where I play as Y’shtola.  The server rebooted and killed my connection shortly after starting that… which means I am going to have to restart the entire freaking quest line when I get back.  Were this another game I would have just tossed it in the bin and walked away from it, but I know I HAVE to get through this stupid quest to be able to participate in the upcoming expansion.  This is a dumb quest and Square should feel bad for putting something this painfully long in the MSQ.

Instead I finally landed on playing some Grim Dawn which I still think is probably my favorite Diablo 2 style game out there.  The story is nonsense and the questing system is obtuse… so quite honestly I just keep pushing forward until I get to the next rift which unlocks access to that region from the central hub.  Along the way I appear to be completing some quests as I take down monsters marked with a star over their head.  It is a mechanically fun game, but I can’t say any of the gearing options feel really inspired to me.  Sure it is sorta cool that you can have a gun, but I still wind up running around with a big two handed weapon, since my attack of choice is a big overhead smash that sends a shockwave along the ground.

Here is hoping that today is less messed up and that nothing out of the ordinary occurs.  It is also my hope that tonight I can return to that quest line and finally beat the damned thing so I can move on with my life.  Final Fantasy XIV is not really endearing itself to me right now, but I want to finish the story that I have missed.

Sickly Agent

tom-clancys-the-division-2-screenshot-2019-02-07-18-52-33-89

tom-clancys-the-division-2-screenshot-2019-02-07-18-52-33-89

I’m feeling like crap this morning so I am probably going to be fairly brief as far as blog posts go.  Granted I just said that in the least brief way I could possibly muster…  so who knows.  I played a little Division 2 last night and quite honestly it didn’t grab me.  Of the looty shooty games that were on the market I will say that Division was probably the one that I had the most on again off again relationship with.  Destiny I knew from the first moment I played it that I loved it.  Warframe I knew from the first moment I played it that I largely disliked it.  Division…  I was never quite certain of.  There were aspects that I liked and aspects that I didn’t like…  namely I was never a huge fan of their particular brand of hide behind shit and aim your tiny cursor at someones head.  It felt way more tactical and less visceral than a Destiny where everything is first person gun play.  I found it fine when I was trying to keep track of three targets, but stressed when I was attempting to hide from a dozen targets all bearing down on me.  The movement never felt fluid enough to compensate for the need to constantly be ducking myself behind something.  Also my target personal target acquisition skills seemed to be incompatible with zeroing in on a tiny area of motion fast enough to get in a shot before I also took a lot of damage in the process.

If anything…  all of these things seem to be worsened experience wise for me in the sequel.  The world is more cluttered and there is just more things that you have to reconcile in your field of view… and given that I spend most of my time playing on a 15.4 inch laptop screen…  tracking tiny areas of motion is a challenge.  From what I can tell Division 2 is much like Destiny 2…  where it is mostly the same game just rendered in much higher fidelity.  However just like the first game I am not entirely certain if that is a game that I actually want to play.  The whole military fantasy thing is not really my jam anymore, so that is an initial strike.  Third person shooters are less of my thing than first person shooters…  so that is another strike.  Lastly I am finding that I just don’t enjoy the run from cover to cover sort of gameplay and much prefer to run around guns a blazing…  and Division is a game that actively and brutally punishes you for that.  However as this genre broadens I feel less of a need to try and keep up with all of them.  I play Destiny and Anthem…  and apparently not Division and Warframe.

That is not to say that I won’t spend more time during the weekend giving it an opportunity to infect me with its madness.  This is just a post saying that more or less its the same game that I remember… and that I took two years to hit level cap in.  I know there are a bunch of my friends who are super amped about it and I am not really going to bash the gameplay experience.  It is good at the thing it is doing and I think it is probably better at the thing it is doing than the first game was.  I just find myself questioning if I like the thing that it is trying to do.  It is perfectly reasonable to think that a game is actually pretty good, but that it isn’t a game that you enjoy.  Division 2 is without a doubt a worthy successor to Division…  but I found myself just wanting to play more Anthem.

MMO-Lite Fantasy

ffxiv_dx11-2017-06-26-19-15-40-65

desktop-screenshot-2018-12-16-16-31-20-09

One of the things I have learned over the nearly ten years of doing this thing… is occasionally you need to see your own words reflected back at you through the eyes of another player for something to finally click into place.  Yesterday my good friend Pete left a comment on my blog and I had one of those moments of clarity.  So for reference the comment was specifically about the statement I made about having trouble engaging with a more traditional MMORPG.

I recently re-subbed to FF XIV; in my case I was so lost I rolled yet another alt to start over. Annndddd I’m really struggling to engage for that same “been playing quasi-MMOs too much” reason. I just feel like the time-invest:reward ratio is off now. Maybe it’s because I started fresh, or maybe I’ve just moved past MMOs. Of course knowing I’m all-in on Anthem in a couple of weeks is also kind of coloring all my gaming experiences now. Everything is just to ‘tide me over’ until Anthem comes.

Ultimately I think the key problem I have been having is that what I am looking for doesn’t quite exist yet.  I’ve gotten used to the rhythm of the quasi-MMO/MMO-lite style games where you get some sort of bit of your cortex lighting up every few minutes as something happens that is interesting and exciting.  This could be an engram drop or a really freaking sweet headshot…  or getting to use your super or favorite grenades…  but something cool is constantly happening.  In a traditional MMORPG it just feels sluggish by comparison with nothing really exciting happening unless you are in a dungeon…  and even then loot has been so sanitized and normalized that nothing really exciting ever drops anymore.  Gone are the days of hoping that one item you had been seeking drops…  and replaced is the item level 300 version of the same item you have been since since item level 100 just scaled up.

anthem-screenshot-2019-02-03-17-52-05-42

Everything feels like what we used to refer to as a “stat stick”, aka those boring trinkets that had a lot of stats on them but didn’t do anything to change the gameplay.  In a MMO-Lite like Destiny, each time I pick up a new weapon it feels like an interesting and unique experience and having that one magically rare “god roll” feels so much better than the slightly less perfect versions I have littering my vault.  In Anthem… each weapon and ability load out felt vastly different than the other options…  so Venom Darts felt significantly different from Pulse Blast for example.  Items in a traditional MMORPG don’t do this… because they are trying desperately not to upset the balance of how each class relates to every other class.  As a result you get the same item over and over scaled up for level as not to upset the apple cart.

ffxiv_dx11-2017-06-26-19-15-40-65

Then there is the action aspect that I find myself craving…  in an MMORPG the skill component tends to be either mashing your buttons with Dance Dance Revolution style perfect timing, or your ability to react to things happening quickly, or in the case of Final Fantasy XIV…  execute a choreographed dance perfectly.  Please note I am not discounting the amount of skill that any of those things take, because I have done them all in one form or another but never at the level of polish that the hardcorest of hardcore raiders do.  However this just feels fundamentally different than lining up that perfect headshot or timing a grenade just right as the enemy is running down a hallway and you wind up sweeping that entire group.  That is just a level of interaction that you don’t really get in fantasy games…  and I think is in part why I have been enjoying Assassin’s Creed Origins so much because it gives me some aspects of that.

gameclient-2018-03-14-06-29-45-89

The more Actiony Fantasy games comes close, but never quite work in the same way that a Destiny, Division, Warframe or Anthem do.  Probably the closest that exists is Skyforge, but while the combat feels great…  the overarching flow of that game is somewhat incomprehensible and it is also “very free to play”.  Neverwinter has a lot of the same traits…  and it can be super enjoyable but it is almost too MMO at times…  and again suffers from the “very free to play” hurdle as well.  I feel like I should take a moment to explain what I mean by that.  Free to play games tend to do a bunch of things to confuse the user and drive them towards buying their way out of holes…  so they give you very limited inventory or in the case of Neverwinter spend lots of time deluging you in complete useless shit that you will loot and fill up that inventory space.  They also have tons of competing currencies that have no direct exchange rate that largely just give me a headache thinking about them.  If I can manage to keep my head down and focus on the quest at hand I can enjoy these games for a period of time…  but again the gear all has the problem of feeling like the exact same item regurgitated over and over with higher stats.

eso64-2018-07-10-20-40-32-73

Elder Scrolls Online is a phenomenal MMORPG that wants to be action oriented… and while yes you are constantly swinging your sword with your mouse button in place of hitting an ability with the number 2 to spam it…  it also doesn’t feel very far removed from the traditional formula.  Hitting an ability doesn’t feel exciting in the game and instead just feels like hotbar combat filtered through a different lens.  I continue to play that game for its expansive and wonderful story and my love of the Elder Scrolls setting, but it failed at providing a more action oriented alternative to the MMORPG because in many ways it feels like they didn’t go far enough.  I love the fact that we are limited to a specific number of abilities, but most of those abilities don’t feel powerful enough and can be spammed…  which sorta destroys that feeling of having an exciting moment driven through gameplay.

desktop-screenshot-2018-10-13-14-58-18-14

The game that comes the closest to nailing the Fantasy MMO-Lite is Monster Hunter World.  So many of the elements feel spot on, but it is absolutely NOT trying to be this game and it shows.  Grouping still feels awful even though at least on the PC it is driven by Steam Communities instead of a Clan that requires people to have joined the same session to invite folks into.  It is also very limited in focus… it is about hunting big monsters and if you want to do something other than that the game really doesn’t offer much in the way of opportunities.  There is no “strike” or “dungeon” construct and there are very few activities that offer an opportunity to just hang out and chill, as everything is laser focused on taking down big boss monsters.  However it does nail down the perfect crafting system for one of these MMO Lites or “collect a bunch of monster bits” and then have some NPC make your gear from it.

assassins-creed-origins-screenshot-2019-01-16-20-42-52-30

The challenge is still that no one has quite created a version of the Destiny model that works for Fantasy games.  “For Honor” tried to create a version of melee combat that does things to require skill…  but it feels confusing and obtuse with its rock paper scissors inspired system of defending and attacking.  In a perfect world…  someone would take the world of Anthem… the activities of Destiny… the combat of Monster Hunter World… and package them all together in one MMO-Lite that gives me my fantasy fix.  However for the moments developers all seem to be chasing that looter shooter niche…  which is great…  but sometimes I don’t want to shoot but instead hit people with a sword.  Sure I know that Warframe has that ability but it is still a Sci-Fantasy game…  and I still have issues with the fucked up perspective of the characters in that title and the inability to zoom out further.  What I ultimately want is a game that no one has built yet.

Smol Joy

img_20190204_080846

img_20190204_080846

I have a fairly truncated morning because I need to be into work pretty early this morning.  As a result I probably should have made a blog post last night…  but it was a weird evening.  I found it difficult to get into the right mindset to make a post, and since I don’t have a lot to talk about this morning I thought I would share pictures of something that makes me extremely happy.  Now if you follow me over on twitter you have already seen these images.  Over the weekend I made a trip to a local flea market that has a booth set up by someone who makes these awesome geeky plastic canvas creations.

img_20190204_080851

Prior to last weekend I had the Deathly Hallows sign, the Ewok and the Nintendo Controller as well as a Tardis keychain that I wear on my lanyard (not pictured).  This weekend I sorta cherry picked over some of my favorites from the rest of what they were offering.  So I added a Deathstar and Boba Fett to the Star Wars Collection, and picked up Bullet Bill and a Boo from some of the Super Mario Bros themed ones they had.  Finally I picked up a bagged set of Zelda stuff…  including Link, the Tri-Force and a Bomb

img_20190204_080856-big

The last time I was there I did not see the Mana Symbols from Magic the Gathering…  so I absolutely had to pick up my favorites to represent my Golgari pride and my love of all things Green and Black.  After putting these all up in my cube… I realized I had a bunch more space available so at some point I will make another trip back to add a few more to the wall.  I have this metal bar that runs the entire length of my office and I sorta want it completely covered in these creations.  The sad part is the person doesn’t have an Etsy or anything of the sort listed in the Flea Market booth or I would absolutely advertise the heck out of it.  Whatever the case they make me extremely happy and tomorrow I promise I will return with a more proper blog post.

January Experiments

vlcsnap-2019-02-01-06h16m14s779

vlcsnap-2019-02-01-06h16m14s779

Given that it is a Friday and the first of February… I thought I would spend this morning talking about a few experiments that I did during January.  First up is the EufyCam E that I was given a copy of to review by Anker.  When I posted the review I said I would provide updates talking about how well it has generally worked, and I figured now might be a reasonable time for one of those.  I have used this WAY more than I expected to use it, in part because it is constantly alerting me when any motion has been detected at my front door.  Because I also use a TicWatch I will get a little buzz buzz buzz on my wrist and see that the EufyCam has detected activity.  At which point I flip open the app and see a stream of video similar to the still that I snagged above.  Do you know how much it improves my day when I see my neighborhood cat friends have decided at random to come visit during the day?  In fact as I am typing this my wrist has buzzed to let me know that this exact same cat is outside wanting attention…  which is adorable because he likes to kinda jump up and head butt your hand.

Without the Eufycam I never would have noticed that I had this visitor one morning either.  At first when I viewed it on my mobile device since I tend to just watch a postage stamp sized preview… I thought to myself “well that is a chubby cat I have never seen before”.  It was only later when I watched it full screen that I noticed….  oh that is a Raccoon.  This makes an awful lot of sense because last year we had something trying to tear into one of our plastic chests in the backyard, and I guess I always assumed it was a squirrel…  but knowing how tricksy Raccoons could be I would not be surprised if it was this little guy.  Also weirdly we have had a flock of birds just sorta randomly land on the porch…  I am guessing gobbling up the excess catfood that I gave the buzz buzz cat above.  Regardless…  all of these little breaks in the day when I have animals on the security camera make me very happy.

The other really useful thing that I did not think about with this camera is since my wife and I right now have staggered schedules…  she often times gets home before me but immediately goes out for a walk.  The camera gives me a time when she left the house so I know approximately how long it will be before she gets back.  Lately I have been using this arcane knowledge to time a cup of coffee so that it is ready for her to come in from the freezing cold.  Other times I just use this as a way of determining when is a good time to start dinner so that it is ready when she gets back also.  There is of course the ubiquitous use of determining when a package has arrived, but weirdly…  I am way more jazzed about the random animal friends.  I’ve not actually had an occasion of a solicitor since I installed the cam, but I did freak out the outdoor cat one day when I used the “talk through” feature to say hello.  All in all I am super happy with how well the setup has been working, and when it is more widely available on the market I want to see what it would take to add a few more cameras.

distancefollow

Another experiment that seems to be working is the whole “kick all products off to a twitter list” thing that I did shortly after the New Year (January 4th to be specific).  Originally this list was called Brands, because that was my original usage…  to cleanse my twitter feed of all spammy brand related information.  Recently however I have renamed it to “DistanceFollow” because that is effectively what I am doing…  following a user but putting some distance between them and my day to day twitter usage.  So there are a few things that have come about as a result of this.  Firstly this combined with turning off the retweets of a few accounts has made my twitter experience way more enjoyable.  I actually enjoy popping in to read twitter because it feels more like it used to…  me checking in on what my friends were doing throughout the day.  While I don’t have near as much time to check in as I once did, that actually makes this feel better because I am not having to wade through a bunch of promotional junk to see updates that I might actually care about.

The second part about this is…  I am way more likely to “try out” following someone by throwing them in the Distance Follow list because I expect it to be spammy and if I happen to decide that I really want to follow them more closely…  I will actually do a proper follow.  This is effectively what I tried to do with the whole Timeline 2.0 initiative a few years back… but I was going about it the wrong way.  In that I was trying to create a special bubble that only had the people I cared about interacting with…  but in this I’ve started weeding my ACTUAL follows and making it represent that core group of people that I care about.  I am sure I will continue to prune… because once that process starts it gets a lot easier.

mmorpgmastodon

Another part that has helped this process is that I have been spending significantly more time on MMORPG.Social and Mastodon by nature is not a network that seems to give a fuck at all about follow numbers.  I have tried throughout the years not to care about this…  but still did to some extent in spite of not wanting to?  There are a lot of people that I never unfollowed just because they happened to be following me back.  Hanging out on the Fediverse and the fact that being mutuals isn’t really that bit of a deal there…  is starting to remove my giving a fuck about it on twitter.  As a result you can look at my Analytics and see that I have been slowly hemorrhaging followers for awhile now…  and I am okay with this.  I’ve come to accept that I do not have enough time in my life to hang out with every cool person I meet, and have also come to the realization that not everyone is going to like me…  and that is okay.

Social Media has always set up this weird dynamic giving you a false sense of connection when often times…  you are just an assemblage of pixels that occasionally says something funny to the person on the other side of the connection.  I’m wired weird where I tend to actually care about a lot of the people that I interact with.  The problem with that however is that there is no way I can keep that many people in my head at all times…  and then I feel like shit when I realize that it has been three months since I last had a conversation with some random person in my feed.  So as a result I am trying to care less about the minutiae and beat myself up less about not caring enough.  I have a circle of friends that widens and shrinks organically… and I am generally going to try real hard to be okay with that fact.

In the meantime however… looking forward to playing some more Anthem this weekend!

 

Guardian Blues

tiger_release_final_20190130_062747

tiger_release_final_20190130_062747

I’m struggling a bit this morning to pull together a blog post.  In theory I think I am fighting a cold or something because the last several days I have just felt lousy.  Last night for example I really wanted to pop into some Destiny 2 and do the weekly tasks that are set in front of me on a brand new day.  However I roamed around the tower a bit before logging out for the evening because I could not seem to focus enough to actually do something as intensive as playing a guardian.  I didn’t really play much last week either, so I have not been helping push the clan level up and for that I feel bad.  I have so many things that I need and want to get accomplished but have just been lacking the drive to actually do them.  The quest for the Last World exotic went in yesterday but after looking what all is involved…  I am really not looking forward to more crucible grinding.  I had to do plenty of that already for the Malfeasance quest line that I have yet to actually finish.

ffxiv_dx11-2019-01-30-06-34-08-259

What I ultimately spent my night doing instead was working on the Blue Mage some more.  There are probably more productive ways to go about this process, but what I wound up doing was spent some time in Coerthas before eventually settling into Outer La Noscea grinding the 41-44 Goblin camps.  I managed to get Blue up to 37 so the progress was moving pretty well, but solo grinding largely involved controlling the camp spawns since I was many times the only person out there.  It reminded me a lot of the way that we used to play in Everquest, where you would work your way into an area and then try and hold that position while avoiding getting overrun as too many things spawned in at the same time.  There were a few moments where things got a little dicey if I had two bombs and two goblins on me at the same time, but all in all I reached a comfortable pace and thanks to Sticky Tongue I could yoink mobs over to my perch of relative safety.

The biggest challenge however is that 1000 Needles has started to miss a significant amount lately.  I am guessing its the fact that I have been hitting higher level mobs than my own level, but whatever the case it occasionally makes things a little questionable.  At this point I should probably be able to solo Haukke Manor just fine, but all of the remaining abilities that I can pick up are going to require some significant shenanigans to collect.  For similar reasons to why I didn’t play Destiny 2 last night…  I just did not have it in me to attempt soloing a dungeon.

anthem-screenshot-2019-01-27-14-20-17-58

What I ultimately want to be playing however…  is more Anthem.  So I am guessing that the Demo did it’s trick of embedding that world deep into my psyche.  This weekend we are supposedly getting access again and I am looking forward to it.  I am hoping the various connection issues are resolved and I can spend some time playing with friends and doing missions together.  I am also hoping they maybe give us a bit more of a drip feed of content…  at least more than the one strike mission.  Regardless I am looking forward to suiting up again because it feels like it is going to be a game that latches hold of me pretty tight.  Ashgar introduced us to the FashionLancers reddit, which I am finding super interesting… but also realizing that I didn’t do anywhere near what I could have with the cosmetic system.  Here is hoping we get a newer build this weekend and with it a bunch of the issue have been put on ice.

MMORPG.Social

mastodon_banner

mastodon_banner

It has been roughly a month since we embarked on this journey of the MMORPG.Social Mastodon instance and I have been wanting to report back how things have been going.  For the uninitiated Mastodon is as social microblogging platform that runs on a technology called ActivityPub  which provides the functionality of decentralizing your access to a larger network.  What I mean by that is all of the individual Mastodon/Pleroma/PixelFed/GNUSocial and a bunch of other similar ActivityPub based tools “federate” with each other and effectively link up to form what folks commonly refer to as the Fediverse.

What this means in practice is that you address people not only by the @name convention but also @instance following the name.  In doing so you can follow and communicate freely with anyone using any of the ActivityPub based federating instances.  Because of this freedom it becomes more about choosing the local instance that most closely reflects your interests than simply dog-piling on the largest one.  Some numbers for example of the biggest instances…  Pawoo.net which is a mostly non-english speaking instance has as of the time of writing this… 441,376 users.  Mastodon.Social which is lead by the creator of the Mastodon software and largely considered to be the flagship is at 306,065 users.  On the other end of the spectrum you have thousands of single or handful of users instances that cater to very small communities.

Why Change Instances?

I’ve moved around quite a bit on the Fediverse, largely because as I got more engaged with the community I had reasons for popping elsewhere.  Thankfully Mastodon specifically gives you the tools to direct users from one profile to another profile and export/import the users you were following to make picking up your home and moving it a little easier.  Just for reference…  here is a run down of the people I have been on the Fediverse.

  • @Belghast@Mastodon.Cloud – a large generic instance that was being used as overflow for Mastodon.Social when I first found out about the existence of the Fediverse.
  • @Belghast@Elekk.xyz – I quickly realized that having a good local was more important than being on a big instance and this was an amazing home run by @Noelle who also serves as one of the moderators for Mastodon.Social and in general does an awful lot to help support the Fediverse in general.  Even though I am not actively using Elekk.xyz I fund her Patreon just to help support her efforts.
  • @Belghast@Nineties.Cafe – My good friend Liore decided to start her own Mastodon instance, and with that I migrated myself from Elekk.xyz to Nineties.Cafe.  The first month was a glorious time, much like the launch of a new MMORPG but over time folks stopped posting and now there are only a handful of us that seem to check it these days.
  • @Belghast@MMORPG.Social – I initially just signed up here to support the very awesome Gazimoff who is running the instance, and in the end wound up migrating completely because it has become a really cool environment.  Lots of MMORPG players hanging out and talking about the games they are playing.

Ultimately I didn’t have to move at all and I could have continued communicating with people from Elekk, Nineties and MMORPG all through my original Mastodon.Cloud account.  However one of the things I love about having a good local instance for a home, is that you get access to the Local feed that shows what everyone is publicly talking about on that server.  Each time I have moved it was because I wanted to be part of that local environment and keep taps on what was happening.  There is of course the Federated timeline which shows you everything being said by anyone that your instance is federated with, but that can be at times like drinking from the firehose.

Admittedly one of the hardest things to get used to for a long time avid Twitter user like myself, is how generally slow the pace is on the Fediverse.  You have to sort of think back to those early days of twitter when you weren’t following a couple of hundred very chatty people to get the same sort of experience.  Over time I have found people from lots of different instances that I follow, and because of it I have knitted together a community of people that I talk to on a regular basis.  However I want to throw out the warning that Mastodon and the Fediverse in general is going to feel like a really quiet place at the beginning before you branch out and find your tribe.

Why MMORPG.Social?

mastodonsocialusers

The instance has been going for roughly a month at this point and we have way more users than I ever expected at this point.  Gaz also has been working super hard to give lots of different options for the user base and even got us an official Mascot.  I have no clue if the mascot has a name… but I propose Mortimer.  Normally folks just stand up and instance and call it good, but Gaz has been doing a lot of fiddling under the hood to stand up infrastructure to support growth.  Here are some examples…

  • https://mmorpg.social – this takes you to the default TweetDeck inspired interface that personally I find super comfortable since I generally use either that or a mobile client to access Twitter.
  • https://lite.mmorpg.social/ – for those who prefer the twitter web client experience, Gaz stood up Halcyon which is a lightweight twitter clone interface.
  • https://blog.mmorpg.social – is a WordPress site where he posts information about the instance which is pretty new but also super useful.
  • images.mmorpg.social – is not directly reachable but serves as the infrastructure for AWS S3 where he is now hosting all of the images for speed and reliability
  • mail.mmorpg.social – is also not directly reachable but is a dedicated mail server that handles that functionality again for speed and reliability since registration requires email notification

On top of that I believe he is experimenting with PixelFed which is an activitypub implementation that gives you a more Instagram like experience, but the challenge there is making it blend in seamlessly with the rest of the network so folks who prefer that Insta experience can still hang out and communicate with those who prefer the Twitterish one.  So much of this is contained in a really excellent “Getting Started” post that he crafted as a way of easing new users into our little corner of the world.

Adjusting Expectations

I think one of the challenges of the Fediverse is that so many people hop on that bandwagon thinking it will immediately replace Twitter as their daily driver network.  I too went into it with those expectations and quite frankly I was placing too much pressure on it to fill some predetermined niche I already had carved out.  As I have moved through the Fediverse and tempered that opinion…  I’ve realized that more or less it is a completely new continent to explore.  Sure you are ultimately leaving a bunch of people behind in that journey, but you are also going to meet a ton of people you might never have met if you didn’t hop on that boat to the new expansion content.

At it’s core MMORPG.Social was created to fulfill three basic goals.

  • To build a microblogging home for fans of MMOs and online games
  • To eliminate excessive and uninvited advertising
  • To bring back features like chronological timelines, and add new ones like editing statuses and custom emoji

I personally think it is excelling at all of them and they have a pretty reasonable code of conduct statement as well.  The awesome thing about the Fediverse is somewhere out there is an instance being run in the manner that you want.  The fediverse in general gives the admins a lot of latitude in dealing with problems…  like the ability to block entire instances that end up being problem children.  This means that the fediverse experience is going to be very different for each user and especially on each local instance.  So far I am greatly enjoying my stay and if you are interested in Mastodon, the Fediverse or MMORPG.Social I am always more than willing to answer questions.  If you are interested in signing up check out the sign up link here.

Cloud Gaming

img_20190123_173200

img_20190123_173200

A few weeks back I got a DM out of the blue from whoever manages the ParsecTeam twitter account.  Essentially they said that since I talk about Parsec all the time that they would like to send me a shirt as a sort of token of appreciation.  So yesterday said shirt came in the mail so I thought I would post a picture of it here.  It is REALLY bright blue, and the photo I took with it laying on the bed doesn’t exactly do it justice.  Basically think how bright Twitch Purple is… but blue.  I have this weird thing with products, in that I really only want to support the things that I truly believe in…  and Parsec is definitely one of those given that I use it pretty much every night.  I do not however have any sort of a formal relationship with the company and I am paying for services the same as anyone else.  I opted into the Warp account thing more than anything as a way of helping fund development which I THINK is around $50 a year but I am not 100% certain of that.

The reason why I keep talking about Parsec is because it has been a game changer for me personally in opening up my options to play games on a system that effectively no longer supports decent gameplay.  I’ve talked about this at length, so really don’t feel the need to dig back in this morning but if you are curious what I am talking about you can find the tales in these two posts:  “In Home Streaming” and “Wireless Ethernet”.  I guess throughout my life I have experienced a lot of things that I loved…  that for whatever reason did not stand the test of time.  As a result this has made me really want to show support for the things that products that make my life better.  Parsec has definitely been one of those products and as such I keep mentioning it any time someone brings up wanting to swap around the way they game, or have a better mobile gaming option.  I still would love to see native clients for the consoles, even if they can’t do bi-directional play and simply offers streaming from PC to console.

parseccloudcomputing

The thing I am the most curious about are the cloud options that they offer to rent.  One of these days I am going to try out that Amazon Web Services g3.4xlarge even though I have no real need to do so.  Mostly I am curious at just how viable it is for modern gaming and just how cost effective it would be to purchase one.  If you were going to try and recreate my current gaming rig right now…  even though it has some older parts in it… it would still cost around $2300.  You could effectively game 24/7 for 52 days straight before you spent in cloud charges as you would on that system.  My real question however is just how nice is the performance.  At the moment I am streaming Parsec across my LAN with it configured to always try a local connection first, so I am not really sure how it is going to feel going out to AWS.  One of these weekends when I don’t have another competing project I am going to give it a shot because I am super curious.  I’m also curious what that big box feels like as compared to the much smaller specced $0.51/hour set up.

assassins-creed-origins-screenshot-2019-01-23-20-26-33-83

This morning went down a rabbit hole that I did not intend to go down.  Originally I was going to make fun of my character in Assassin’s Creed Origins for somehow having two different bows, a battle axe, a sword and a shield slung across his back.  Instead I talked more about Parsec, but legitimately I am going to try out the cloud option at some point.  Mostly for folks that want to have a PC gaming experience a few hours a week without affording a PC…  it might be a really cost effective solution.  This is one of those things that I don’t need myself at all, but I would like to know how well it works before I offer it as a possible solution.  I’m in a weird spot gaming wise where I am still playing a single player game, but not really feeling like I have much exciting to say about it.  I’ve also been super exhausted this week, and need to wrap this up so I can get to work.

So readers…  How is your week going?