Selling Nostalgia

This morning I am just now waking up as I am off for good Friday.  Which in truth I always thought was odd given how much Baptists outnumber Catholics in my area, but whatever the case I will take it.  I like days off, other than the fact that they sort of cause me to lose momentum.  As a result I have been staring at the screen for awhile now after waking up and eating a couple of croissants. and now seem to have absolutely no ammunition for a proper blog post.  As a result you are instead getting a bit of a reprise of something I already said on the interwebs.  Yesterday at some point during the day I went on a bit of a tear on twitter of posting a chain of posts about nostalgia and gaming projects.  Every so often I decide to react to something…  and like the confused madman that I am I rarely if ever provide proper reference for the ramblings that are about to ensue.  Yesterday was no different, and ultimately what started the machine running was the fact that I keep seeing announcements relating to the various City of Heroes nostalgia projects that are all hoping to capture the magic of that game.

The general problem I have with this concept is… that City of Heroes was a specific moment in time for me and involved not only the game…  but the general lack of other options available at the time.  In the early MMO era there was a period of each game release absolutely eclipsing what the previous one was offering me.  Prior to the launch of City of Heroes, the MMOs that I had played for serious amounts of time were Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot and Horizon: Empire of Istaria in that order.  From each game I gathered up some friends and carried them forward into the next title, and this was absolutely the case for City of Heroes seeing me splitting time between playing with a circle of local friends, my first Everquest guild, my second Everquest guild…  and a group that would ultimately end up being the core of folks I carried forward into World of Warcraft.  It was a weird time in gaming and it was made vibrant by the fact that everything was fresh and new.  That said the moment any of us got our hands on World of Warcraft, it pretty much was the death of City of Heroes… and instead of continuing to play we largely spent a bunch of time planning out what our ultimate adventures in Azeroth would look like.

The City of Heroes nostalgia games however are instead a dogmatic recreation of this thirteen year old game brought into the 16:9 resolution world with higher fidelity.  Sure that is an interesting prospect, but something you might download a screw with on a boring Sunday afternoon like an Everquest emulator… but probably not something you are likely to play for long periods of time.  The core problem with City of Heroes is that there were simply not that many people actually playing it when the game was shuttered.  Sure it bothered me greatly to know that this virtual world that I once loved was now gone, and it still frustrates me.  However I was not actually playing it…  nor was anyone that I knew…  and that was the issue.  It was a game we all remembered fondly… but chose to keep remembering fondly by not playing it and subjecting it to the criticism of knowing the games that came after it.  This is not entirely a critique of City of Heroes, because there are plenty of other trips down memory lane in the works that intend to bring back Everquest or Dark Age of Camelot.  City of Heroes was an important game for me…  but also one I had moved past.

“I remember this thing fondly” is an extremely dangerous demographic, because our memories are ultimately fallible.  It is entirely possible for us to inflate the idea of something to the point where it no longer represents anything vaguely close to the actual experience.  A prime example of this is that I loved Bravestar the cartoon… and a number of years ago I tracked down a copy of the series run.  About three episodes into watching it, I stopped because it simply did not stand the test of time… and seemingly I remembered the show… but also infused that memory with how much I actually enjoyed playing with the toys.  Similarly I remember loving Airwolf… and then subjected myself to watching the show from Netflix and it was something that just no longer worked for me.  I think City of Heroes is going to ultimately be the same for a lot of people, that they remember the game fondly because in truth they are actually remembering a moment in time and the people that were involved with it.  I’ve changed an awful lot since April of 2004, and I have this feeling that most of the folks that really clamor for a return to that game have changed as well.

The truth is I would love to see a modern City of Heroes, but when I say that I don’t mean it literally.  What I want is a modern super hero MMO that captures the spirit of City of Heroes, but more importantly is relevant and something that all of my friends are similarly excited to be playing.  The last part is the hardest in the equation.  Online games are never actually the same, because they are this combination of elements that the game studio has control over, and elements that it doesn’t in the form of the community of folks playing it.  Sure you can revisit a book or a movie and even though you have changed… the source material ultimately has not.  That is not the case with an online experience, because the community effects your perception of the game in ways that we don’t even fully understand.  I might phase my statement “I really miss X game” but what I am actually saying is I miss the moment in time when I had a group of friends actively playing that game.  These little vignettes of time are just something you can’t really get back.  I have experienced this so many times with World of Warcraft as folks rush into a brand new expansion… only to peter out once again because it ultimately feels like ground we have tread too many times to maintain the level of excitement for long.

Nostalgia is a seriously addictive drug, and I admit that I succumb to it rather often.  As gamers we are all I think chasing the original high we felt when we played this game or did this activity.  Then ultimately lying to ourselves when we claim that the game is just as good as we remembered it.  Comfort gaming will always be comfortable because we can slip into it without the experience asking that much from us.  However in doing so we are largely feeding off past memories far more than we are actually making new ones.  I remember those first few years in World of Warcraft with crystal clarity, but with each expansion and each succession of a brand new group of people to meet and remember…  they get significantly more hazy.  Coming back to a game…  makes you remember not just the highlight reel of good moments, but the crashing reality of all of the frustrations you felt about the game and that likely ultimately lead you to quit in the first place.  All of this is why I feel like relying entirely on nostalgia to carry a project forward is a deeply dangerous proposal.  Nostalgia is a great hook to get people through the door, but the project itself has to immediately stand on its own two feel and start building deep and interesting memories to keep people there for long.  I wish the crop of nostalgia induced projects the best of luck, but at the same time I am deeply skeptical that they are going to live up to our memories.

Thoughts on Switch

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It has been a week or so since I got my Switch and I felt like I wanted to talk a bit about it this morning.  Firstly I really like this console and apart from the relatively low hardware specs and currently small games library, I have to say I think they are on to something.  There are a lot of reasons why I have bounced off handheld consoles, but primarily they never really fit the way that I wanted to be playing games.  In those brief moments where I needed the ability to play a portable gaming system…  they have always been great.  The problem being that does not match up with my default mode of play.  Generally speaking, if I am somewhere I can be playing games…  I am at home with my laptop, desktop and a slew of traditional consoles.  Playing games on a larger screen just feels better than playing on the tiny screen in your hands that you ultimately hunch your shoulders and crane down your neck to be able to play comfortably.  I have commented for some time that I wish I could play various mobile games on the television with an external controller hooked up to them.  Now functionally you can do this with the Vita via the PSTV box…  which is essentially a Vita for your television.  However this is not exactly a great solution since you are not actually playing on the same system you are using portable… and unless your game supports cloud sync there really is no keeping progress between the vastly different platforms.

Nintendo is known for creating gimmick based systems and there are so many times that I wished they would abandon this and just create a true console generation killer.  However they seem to be hung up on different ways of interacting with their games, but for me at least…  I always wish I was simply using a traditional controller playing a traditional game.  There are a whole slew of games that are functionally dead to me… because I hate the Wiimote and Nunchuck control scheme of the Wii.  The Switch is still a gimmick console, but this time the gimmick actually works in its favor by letting the console be whatever I happen to need it to be at the very moment.  Right now I am playing a significant amount of the time with the Switch docked into my console gaming set up in my office.  This lets me kick back and play with either the pro controller or the detached joycons and get into a comfortable long haul position for gaming.  However there are times when I would rather go lay down in the bedroom, because I am starting to wind down and really should probably be asleep already.  The Switch allows me to undock and take it downstairs… and the fact that it is chargeable by USB type C lets me also charge it down there without the expensive of a second dock.  If I would rather be downstairs because there is something on Television that I want to at least be in the same room with… I can either play it in handheld mode or prop the console up on my lap and play with detached joycons or even the pro controller once again.

Functionally the Switch is at least in part what I had hoped the Wii U would be.  Before owning one, I envisioned being able to play games on a big screen and when I wanted to head to bed grab the gamepad and use that instead.  The big problem there is that the short range of the gamepad made it impossible to really do this.  For awhile I had a compromise of having the Wii U hooked up in the bedroom, but when I wanted to play the thing in “console” mode that left me from a really comfortable way to play.  Sitting up with one leg hanging off the bed and zero back support does not exactly make for a comfortable gaming experience for long periods of time.  Nor did any combination of propping pillows up against the backboard and instead I found myself either laying down completely and playing with the gamepad or playing in short bursts with constant switching of positions trying to get comfortable.  What was sad about this is the fact that I really wanted to keep enjoying Nintendo games…  but the systems they were providing me to play them on really never matched up with the way I wanted to play anymore.  The Switch while it has its quirks really does being Nintendo gaming back into an era where I care about it again on anything other than a theoretical and cursory level.  The only problem is…  right now my Switch is a Zelda Breath of the Wild machine… and occasionally a Shovel Knight machine, and there just are not a lot of the games that I wish I could be playing on it.

What I am hoping is that we start seeing a bunch of titles ported to it, and I am hoping that Nintendo can somehow cross the Blue versus Green barrier and pull some titles from both camps.  I personally would love to see Persona 4 Golden released on the Switch given how hard I bounced off that on the Vita.  I think in theory I might be able to hook up the PSTV upstairs in my console configuration and be able to enjoy the experience, because the truth is I just never liked using my Vita enough to be playing it for extended periods of time.  I largely bought it as a remote screen for playing Destiny in bed, which is sad to say but true.  Thankfully I got it for less than $100 from one of my Craigslist deals, so I don’t necessarily feel super bad about that either.  The other thing that I am absolutely dying for is the Virtual Console…  sure I imagine Nintendo is going to make us repurchase things, but in truth I don’t much care.  The Switch really is the ideal system for playing classic games on because of its extreme convertibility.  I also really want to see the Pokemon titles get ported to the platform, given that more or less I have bounced pretty hard off of each of those at some point… because I simply didn’t want to play a handheld for long periods of time.  I also really want Castlevania Symphony of the Night on the platform… which is something admittedly that probably won’t happen but I sorta buy it on every platform it comes out on.  More than that though the Virtual Console is going to hopefully bring a whole slew of other Castlevania games to the platform which might be good enough for me.  Basically I see so much promise for this system… and now it is just a waiting game for companies to figure out how to port games to it… and hoping that Nintendo largely doesn’t get in the way of its success and fuck this up.

Archon of the Tiers

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This morning I am flailing quite a bit when it comes down actually sitting here and composing a blog post.  Its been one thing or the other… like a cat that decided she had to be held before she would relinquish the keyboard to me to actually type.  Or the fact that I spilled coffee on my shirt and needed to go change it.  Now that I actually sit down at the keyboard I am not entirely certain what I have to talk about.  Last night was a night devoted to Tyranny because Saturday we are recording our March AggroChat Game Club game show and I wanted to be able to participate in the conversation fully.  I like the idea of the Game Club, but I am a poor member.  I am highly susceptible to whims, and tend to get focused in on a game… or number of games at a time.  I am also super bad at forcing myself to finish some thing when I am really not that into it.  This is evidenced by the fact that my night stand is filled with partially finished books discarded when the mood left me.  There was a time when I was actually rather good at finishing games… in fact I spent one entire summer competing with a friend of mine trying to see how many Nintendo games we could finish.  The difference there however was that I had very limited options….  and now thanks to the commodity that games have become…  I have all of the options in the world to distract me from actually focusing on a game once the going gets less than enjoyable.  As a result I tend to bounce back and forth between the games that excite me the most and when any one of those games slows down…  I tend to stall and eventually stop playing it.

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Playing games for the game club often times feels like homework, and I either avoid it entirely… or put it off until the point where I cannot reasonably finish the game before the show.  There is a big reasons why I don’t really do reviews, because I never really have that drive to finish games.  In fact I have the opposite drive.  When I get sucked into a story and a world, there is a part of me that never wants the journey to end.  So I have found myself constantly reaching points in games where I am a few hours from the end… and then I simply never make that finish push.  It is like so long as I do not cross that hill then the adventure never has to end.  All of that said… I didn’t want this to be the case with Tyranny because I had a really amazing first weekend playing the game…  but stalled out at some point during the middle section.  However over the last few weeks I have tried to put in a few hours, every few nights hoping to pull through on the other side and get to a place in the game where the pace quickened once more.  Last night I seemed to hit that stride and found myself completely unable to stop playing as I circled the ending and finally finished around 11:30 last night.  I was not going to sleep without completing this… or at least what I hoped and apparently guessed right was going to be the ending.  All of this said…  I absolutely crave a continuation.  I want dlc or a sequel that lets me continue on from the point I reached in the main games arc.

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I don’t really want to go into a lot of details because I am largely saving them up for the podcast, but I have to say…  this was a really great game.  More shockingly it goes on the pile of games that I want to play through a second or third time because along the journey you have to make so many choices.  There are things that I did that I might have done differently.  The game is absolutely brutal in forcing you down a path based on your actions, and not letting you wriggle out from under those actions without consequences.  In many ways it reminds me of the way Undertale did this, with the exception that at least here you can reload a save file and try again.  However usually by the time you reach one of these branching points… it is too late because a series of tiny decisions will ultimately make or break your choices when it comes to a larger one.  The game flips so many conventions on its head, as you play through as the functional “bad guy” in the story…  but one that is entirely capable of making fair and just choices in spite of this fact.  In many ways there are chunks of my play through that remind me of what it was like trying to play a Light Side Sith in Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic.  I did not succeed entirely but in the grand scheme I thought I was doing a good job of walking the line…  until I reached the end and was forced to account for all of my past decisions.  This game remembers… and winds up rubbing your nose in them…  forcing you to confront the ramifications of each minor choice.  All told start to finish I spent 14 hours… and could have probably easily spent another 10 hours were I not rushing towards a fixed goal.  I highly suggest checking out this game if you are into classic Baldur’s Gate era PC RPGs.

Hair Elemental Gone

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Yesterday was a bit of a mixed day for me, given that I was sick and staying home.  I spent the majority of it watching Iron Fist on the sofa while attempting to do other things…. and sorta fading in and out of sleep.  Throughout the course of the day I played a little Tyranny, working my way closer and closer to the end.  I also worked my way through the new Final Fantasy XIV patch content, that represents the last bit of story we will see before the launch of Stormblood this summer.  That said I feel like it is just too soon to really talk about the patch or any of the ramifications of it.  In the evening I poked my head around in Destiny attempting to get a husk to drop for the new necrochasm exotic quest.  I had zero luck and instead just completed a few bounties, when I wandered away from the game to do something else.  I found out that apparently Skyforge is available not on the PS4, in its pre-launch patron pack sort of scheme like they did on the PC.  Now there have been a number of times in the past where I have talked about liking this game, but feeling it would play considerably better on a console.  As a result I absolutely jumped on the bandwagon last night and gave it a shot.  You functionally have three options that you can go with if you feel like buying your way into what is essentially console based early access.  Each of the prices listed is with the PS+ discount… because really I consider plus a cost of owning a PS4.

  • Early Adopter Pack – $11.99 – Access to 3 Base Classes
  • Rage of the Beserker – $39.99 – 3 Base + Berserker Class
  • Wrath of the Gods – $55.99 – 3 Base + Berserker + Gunner + Mount

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I jumped in with both feet and went ahead and went for the pack that includes the Gunner class and mount, because in truth I already know I like this game.  One of the things about this game that I wish others would notice… is all the damned beard options.  It wasn’t just a choice of full mountain man vs stubble beard…  but instead I had this complex set of styling options for facial hair that seriously put every other game to shame.  The end result allowed me to create a “Belghast” I am extremely happy with…  the lack of the whole eye scar thing made me go with an eyepatch instead even though it is on the wrong eye.  Traditionally when given the option I give my “Bel” characters some sort of a scar around their left eye… and if given the choice I do the damaged white eye thing as well.  All of that said I was able to create a character that I really like…  instead of a character that wound up being the lesser of evils like is always the case with South Korean MMOs.  The UI took a little getting used to because it varies slightly depending on the screen, but is generally navigated by a combination of bumpers, triggers and the d-pad.  The square to show and hide hints piece is something super important that I took a bit to grasp, because the game inexplicably pops windows up over other windows… and the only way to remove them is to click the button.

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Something important to note is that it has been a really long time since I have played Skyforge.  I played quite a bit during July of 2015, and have poked my head in occasionally since but never for terribly long.  The mouse and keyboard control scheme worked, but it always felt artificial.  So as a result I have not seen the intro to this game in a very long time… and back then it felt somewhat random.  They seem to have fixed some things narratively, to give you a better explanation of the world you inhabit and why your character happens to be immortal.  The end result still feels extremely thin, but it at least flows better than I remember it doing in the past.  Similarly I noticed that they fixed some of the problems I had with a few of the character models.  Herida for example the NPC that you talk to as part of the tutorial had a weird design in the past of teal hair wearing a turquoise hood that flows down into a dress.  The problem is the hair was not distinct enough of a color and it make it look like she was a lady with turquoise hair that somehow connected to her boobs.  In the console version however she has blonde hair, and the hood itself has been moved back a bit so that you can clearly see the haircut below.  As a result you have some contrast and it no longer looks like she is some sort of hair elemental.

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As far as the gameplay itself… the game feels excellent but it has a complex enough control scheme that I am still getting used to it.  It is following in the footsteps of console MMOs like FFXIV and using the face buttons for most of the attacks with bumpers and triggers acting as either modifiers or quick time event buttons for finishers and power attacks.  It was a little awkward at first but after completing the first few missions it started to feel extremely solid.  All in all I feel like this game is so much more suited for the console, with its pseudo lobby system and little bite sized missions.  Another tweak that I noticed is that we now apparently have a pet that follows us around, and over time can be trained to do functions like automagically picking up loot Diablo 3 style.  At some point I want to go through all of the tutorials for sub classes, because if I remember correctly each one of them unlocked a new outfit.  I never really made much progress in the PC version of the game, so abandoning it completely for the console is not really that big of a decision for me.  That said if you are happy with the PC, then in truth there probably isn’t enough new in the console release to really tempt you.  I think the game just feels better in this form factor, but that is a deeply personal preference.  Its not like I needed another game to be playing, but whatever the case it seems like I am going to be poking my head more into the PS4 Skyforge.

[Edit]

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These are not exact comparison shots, since I failed to take a screenshot during the tutorial.  However this at least shows the slight difference between the two models.  Column A…  weird hair elemental, Column B – someone just wearing a shawl.

Content Creator

This is probably not the best subject to talk about on a day when I am feeling lousy. However there is something that bugs the shit out of me, and I feel like I want to get it off my chest…  or at the very least use my frustration for a blog post.  I hate the term “Content Creator”.  Over the last few years it has gone from something you would hear every now and then to something that is constantly used.  At face value it seems like a term that places all sorts of incoming content on an even playing field.  Do you write a blog?  Awesome you are a “Content Creator”.  Do you post amazing artwork on Deviant Art?  Awesome you too are a “Content Creator”.  Do you create a Podcast, upload songs to SoundCloud, stream “let’s plays”, post creative photos on Instagram, carefully curate a Reddit, or create amazing videos…  then awesome by all reason you should all be “Content Creators”.  The only problem is that this new unifying term…  isn’t really that unifying at all.  Functionally it should by definition mean anyone who produces content for others to consume.  In my experience however that really is not the case.

When you see someone talking about “Content Creators” the majority of the time they exclusively mean Youtubers and Streamers.  Please don’t think this is a rant against Youtube or Streaming, because while I fail miserably at doing either I greatly respect both platforms.  This is a rant against the creating this theoretically inclusive term but instead applying it to a very narrow margin of items that are “content”.  Functionally the frustration comes when someone says they are looking for content creators to work with a product, but in truth really meaning they want eyeballs on YouTube.  For years I have struggled with the definition of “Media” as concerned with conventions and such.  While I can qualify as such, it always feels wrong.  I am not the news and I don’t produce content designed necessarily to inform purchase decisions or report breaking stories.  I am the editorial page in the newspaper and spend my time talking about the things I want to talk about.  More importantly however is the distinction that I do not do it for monetary gain.  That last part often knocks me out of the traditional Media category completely.  However having that special “media” pass sort of grants you an instant layer of legitimacy that cuts through some of the awkwardness that comes from introducing yourself and trying to get detailed information out of them about their product.  Side note… having a business card also does this but it still ends up being wierd as you shove a crisp card with your logo on it into someone else’s hand.

Now I have gone to PAX three times and I have found ways to do this without the vaunted badge each time.  However it would have made things easier, and acted as a sort of social lubricant to make the conversations flow a little more smoothly.  I’ve been able to set up press appointments on my own without the benefit of the designation, so the truth is it isn’t a hard barrier.  This year around however I saw that they had “Content Creator” badges for the first time, and then was instantly saddened when I saw that they were almost exclusively targeting Youtubers and Streamers with them.  Maybe everyone just assumes this and I am the last one to the show.  When you say “Content” to me that is a super universal term for literally anything that a user can consume.  Hell if you are creating xeroxed “Zines” and handing them out to random people passing by…  that is still Content to me because someone devoted time and effort and more importantly mental cycles in to creating something that they thought another human being would enjoy consuming.  So all thing are largely equal to me…  but it feels like some animals are more equal than others.  Were it just PAX it would be no big deal… they maybe used the wrong term for the wrong thing.  The problem is I have seen the same sort of stacked deck against non-video creatives in a lot of different “creator” programs in the gaming industry.

Maybe this is a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, and maybe this is just a sign that I am old.  Hell this past week I got my very first prescription for multi-focal lenses, which is sort of the gold standard of “signs that you are old”.  However this is not me yelling at those damned kids to get off my lawn.  In truth I just want all of the people standing on the lawn to be treated equally.  While I might have preferences towards this or that sort of medium for consuming information…  I am still actively consuming pretty much all of them.  While I largely still think of myself as a blogger and a podcaster, that doesn’t mean I only get information from blogs or podcasts.  I have a pretty steady diet of YouTube channel that I follow, and a handful of streamers that I watch “as time allows”.  To branch out there are even a bunch of artists that I follow on a regular basis, and a few people that I keep tabs on just because they make really amazing craftables.  In my mind each and every one of these people that I have identified… is a Content Creator.  It should be this unifying term, not something that narrows the focus.  I mean labels are bizarre in the first place, and there are a lot of them that I struggle with.  Content Creator is just another in a long line of titles that I used to think seemed like a great idea…  until I saw the way it was being used.

Third Party Screenshot Tools

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

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

GeForce Experience

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

GeForce Experience Website

AMD Gaming Evolved

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

Raptr AMD Gaming Evolved Website

MSI Afterburner

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

MSI Afterburner Website

Windows 10 Game DVR

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

Windows 10 Game DVR Adjustment Settings

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

Forge.gg Website

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

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Adventures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evil Forces

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

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

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

Garula Is Mad

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

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

Many Games! Handle It!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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