Groundhogs Day

Fair warning this is going to be a largely real world post.  There might accidentally be some gaming content but I can’t guarantee it at the start of this post.  I am still struggling to kick whatever junk I wound up with at Pax South, and the problem is it has been going on long enough that I am starting to fall into deep turtle mode.  For those not familiar with my personal verbiage, turtle mode is largely when I pull my head into my shell and forget the world exists.  The more stressed I am, the more likely I am to get stuck in my shell.  What frustrates me the most is that I don’t exactly want to be in this mode.  I had all of these plans to start streaming again, launch a second podcast… and when I stuck my head out I saw my shadow and went running back inside to hide.  I realize the title of this post was likely to confuse some folks because well…  the actual ground hogs day was in fact this month.  So there you go I tied up the reference in the first paragraph.  The prolonged illness part is a huge chunk of it, but so is the fact that work right now is sort of madness.  I am dealing with four different fires that sprung up over the last week, all of which are critical and all of which require immediate attention and have firm deadlines associated with them.  As a result when I get home I just sort of crash and crash hard.  Yesterday I talked about going to bed by 8, and last night I was asleep in my chair by 7:30-8ish and had moved to the bed by 9ish.  For some that might not seem strange but I am generally a barely able to fall asleep at midnight sort of person.  My body doesn’t seem to function at all if I get more than six hours of sleep in a given night.

Needless to say when I go into this mode it also makes me a flake.  Last night was for example the guild raid in WoW, and I simply could not do it.  I went back and forth on this point for awhile last night before simply surrendering to the fact that I would not be able to function even a minimal level as a tank, let alone the sort of tank they need for progression night.  I could not even be responsible for myself, let alone for an entire raid worth of people.  Knowing that is frustrating, because the will is in there…  but it is like the machine that is me cannot figure out how to sort its controls enough to actually function.  I hate that it seems like I have good weeks, where I am normal and functional… followed by several weeks of complete disarray and malfunction.  Part of it goes back to the whole “spoons” theory, in that right now I seem to have a super limited amount of spoons and my workplace is taking every last one of them to keep moving forward and existing.  Maybe things will calm down to the point once again where deadlines and critical issues are not looming so oppressively, but I feel horrible that I cannot seem to juggle both this world and the actual world that earns me a paycheck.  Of course I am going to spend my spoons on the side of the equation that keeps me in my home and my family safe and happy, but I swear I used to do a better job at keeping all of the plates spinning and in the air.

You my reader ultimately suffers in the balance as you have to deal with yet another “Malfunctioning Bel” post.  I ultimately write about my experiences good or bad, and when I am not actually experiencing anything interesting to talk about, I struggle to find things to post.  In theory I could simply skip a day, but part of me just wants to be brutally honest with my readers.  Tonight I am going to try and do the Thursday night Destiny thing again, which is as close to pure fun without any huge feelings of responsibility.  Jex and Squirrel have been carrying my worthless ass in that game for years now, and even when I fail they keep picking me right back up.  I had a talk last night with my wife, and she mentioned it is really like we are living in an alternate dimension, where all of the normal rules have been flipped upside down.  I guess in truth that is adding to the problems as well… it feels like everywhere I turn there is sheer and utter madness, and I need some stability in my life.  I’ve always been pretty good at compartmentalizing…  and so long as I have one area of my life that seems to be functioning normally I can shrug off a whole lot of chaos in the process.  The problem is…  I don’t really feel like I have that place right now.  My home life has been chaotic due to the whole needing to give up Luna for the good of her and our two elder cats.  My work is in a constant state of chaos, and has been for six months or so.  The gaming world is a self made chaos as I feel like I am pulled in a whole lot of different directions with different pools of friends playing different games.  Now the world as a whole is madness as each day I am treated to a new carnival of horrors thrust upon society by an administration that feels like is some cruel joke.  There is no safe place to stand in the maelstrom right now, and because of that…  I keep retreating inside hoping that someday when I poke my head out again the storm will have passed and we can feel some glimmer of happiness once more.

Post Pax

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trionpupLast night I finally got back to the real world after a detour into Paxville.  What I mean by that is that Thursday through Sunday I was hanging out in San Antonio for Pax South.  This marked the third year of attending for myself and the third year of the South branch of Pax as a whole.  The only problem with this whole situation is that in my haste to pack I forgot to grab my laptop.  This mean I was largely disconnected from the world during the entire show.  I had every intent of getting up Friday morning and knocking out a blog post… and while I could have commandeered my wife’s laptop…  I simply opted to roll with the whole disconnected thing.  Sure I had my phone but the first rule of Pax is that internet rarely works at all from the vicinity of the convention.  The first day we were coordinating over a slack channel, but that died during the evening… and from there we had to fall back on text messages that while slow eventually did arrive at their intended target.

I failed miserably at the whole meeting up with folks aspect this year…  that is if you were not already in the group of people that I had the ability to text message.  I know that MidahHiker was there, but it is sheer madness trying to find anyone in the crowd.  I also know WallSavvy from Tequila Mockingbird my Destiny Clan was around… but he spent most of his time hanging out at the Overwatch tournament which was this giant ball of humanity… that ended up so packed that they made folks give up their seating to cram more people into the giant mosh pit that was the audience.  I spent most of my time roaming around with Ashgar and Paragon… with occasional visits from Rae when she wasn’t off doing stuff with her brother or watching the Overwatch tourney herself.  I also managed to connect with the Cosplay duo of Maovis and Exale… who brought his wife and super chill baby to meet me while I was standing in the hour and a half long line for Dauntless.

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Speaking of lines…  lets talk about what I didn’t get to play.  The Nintendo Switch was the announcement that probably sold more tickets to Pax South than just about anything.  However quite literally… if you were standing in line to play Zelda Breath of the Wild…  then that was probably just about all you were going to do that day.  When I first got to the convention I managed to enter in a trajectory that took me past the Nintendo Booth and it was this swirling quagmire of humanity that I got stuck in for about fifteen minutes until I could chart a course through it.  Even on Friday the line reached out of the booth, around the corner and down two other booths lengths along a sheltered corner of the exhibition floor.  I mocked up an image from the convention floor layout to attempt to show the line…  it was double length next to the Nintendo Booth and then stretched along the entire length of the Nexon booth and was capped somewhere around the Rooster Teeth booth.  There was supposedly a shorter line for Mario Kart and ARMS but I did not even attempt it… because time slowed to a standstill anytime you were near the Nintendo area.  There were simply too many people for me to handle.

The show as a whole was significantly larger than the previous two years, with it moving into an entirely brand new area of the convention center.  The only negative there is that I could no longer get up above the floor and take cool aerial shots.  The weirdest part about this PAX experience is that the show as a whole consumes three floors of the convention center, with a fourth floor down at riverwalk level taken up usually by press appointment suites.  I never actually left the main floor, because there was more than enough there for me to do both Friday and Saturday.  I also spent a significant more time playing in the tabletop area this year than I had in past years.  The other new thing that happened this year is that I gave up on parking and took Lyft into the convention both days.  This made the whole experience so much more enjoyable because instead of getting up super early and trying to fight traffic in order to get one of the limited parking spots downtown… I chilled out in the hotel, ate a peaceful breakfast, and then hailed a rideshare.  There was never a point where I waited more than five minutes, and the ride in itself was no more than 10 minutes…. so within 15 minutes I could be on the show floor pretty reliably.  Three of the four trips were amazing… the final trip however the guy got lost a few times and wound up with a much bigger bill than I should have.  I talked to Lyft however and they almost instantly sent me a refund for part of the cost, which was pretty damned cool.  I am absolutely going this route in the future because it gives me the best of both worlds… easy access to the convention but a hotel with access to the various shopping areas for my wife to hang out in.

As far as the hotel goes… these images do not do it justice.  I am used to having a bedroom of sorts with a sitting room attached, but largely in one big open floorplan.  Instead of that we had literally three separate rooms.  The living room was way deeper than the photo shows and had recliner, sofa with pull out bed, television, extra dressers, and a relatively comfy desk with a ton of plugins available from the top.  The “kitchen” area was a full wet bar with cabinets below, sink, and microwave with a fully enclosed roomy bathroom to the left side of it.  The bedroom had your normal fare but what I noticed is… my wife could be listening to the television in the livingroom area and I could be watching something completely different without any bleedover.  They served a huge breakfast each morning where I largely chose sausage, eggs, breakfast potatos with country gravy.  My wife however had a wider mix of things.  They also served dinner each night so one night they had Taco fixings, and another night they apparently had something pasta oriented but I was not around for that one.  All in all it was a great trip… and the icing on the cake is that we realized the massive Half Priced Books Dallas flagship store is less than a block off the route that we take home making it super easy to stop in and hit that during the trip.  Over the next few days I plan on talking about individual games I played so I reserved today mostly as a sort of overview post.

Odd Remembrances

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I am taking a break from packing and cleaning to knock out a blog post while eating dinner.  I will of course embargo this so that it seems like I actually released it in the morning.  However we all know what is happening… that I am making my way to Pax South.  I have a whole bunch of anxiety about going to the convention once again, but in the grand scheme of things I think this will be a really good year.  For the last couple years there has been the stress of having to make press appointments and attempt to be the surrogate of a publication at the convention.  This time around I represent no one but myself… and of course the blog and podcast.  I will also once again have my good friend Ashgar to roam around with, which should be awesome as well.  I’ve made a pact to just go do things… rather than spend the entire convention walking around in circles looking for something to do like we managed to do last year.  Tomorrow will of course be spent driving, and I am hoping I can remember to pack everything that needs to be packed.  I made myself a Trello board in a vague attempt to keep track of things… and I already failed to get away from work with something so I am off to a grand start.

This is going to be a bit of an odd post, but earlier on twitter I happened to read a tweet from Matticus, to which a friend replied that he was “THEE Matticus”.  Instantly the above clip went through my head, and it is something that I have found myself mimicking throughout the years.  The problem being…  no one has a damned clue what I am referencing.  This is the point where I realize that the movies that were seemingly important to me growing up include some oddities.  There is of course Star Wars and Indiana Jones… but also a lot of movies that have not really stood up to the test of time.  Why they are special to me… is for an equally odd reason.  I grew up without cable television, in fact the first time I had cable was in 1996 when I moved away from home and got an apartment at college.  While I lived on the outskirts of my town… the cable refused to run down my driveway because it would have taken them just outside of the city limits.  As a result I largely existed with over the air television…  often watching excessive amounts of UHF stations because they seemed to have far more interesting broadcasting than the major networks.  The other salvation however was the VHS tape…  of which I had plenty both legitimate and with crudely scrawled labels on their spines.

One of my dads work buddies took it upon himself to help my predicament and it became a regular thing for us to send home a package of blank tapes, and at some point in the future receive a bundle of some of the most random movies.  These all consisted of whatever happened to be currently playing on HBO during the block of time when he was recording something, and as such there are weird streaks of movies that all came out in the same one or two year period that stick out in my mind.  The first of these is of course Romancing the Stone… which while an action flick probably would not have even made it on my radar were it not for the fact that it was one of the few action films we had, prior to the local video store closing the liquidating all of their movies.  Of note this is the point where I picked up Alien, Aliens, and Predator.  The truth is while I remember the plot well…  the only line that sticks out of the whole movie is the “zee joan wilder?”, and even then largely because my cousin and I thought it was hilarious to quote it.

Another one of these movies that holds a special place in my heart is My Science Project, which is admittedly a pretty forgettable 80s science fiction film.  It is this weird mix of a bunch of themes at the time crudely cemented together with a bad time travel plot line.  In truth it was the time travel aspect that I liked the most, and even to this day I have an silly enjoyment of anything Fisher Stevens is in.  Once again… this is not even a movie I probably would have rented but the fact that it mysteriously showed up on one of these recorded tapes meant that I watched it way more often than I probably should have.  Rental movies were sort of a special occasion type thing, at least until I got into the middle school era.  The first video rental place we had in town had a sort of shopping club buy in aspect to it, and the rentals were like $5 a piece…  which was madness for 1984.  I think the membership cost something silly like $100… but we had one even though we didn’t use it that often.  I had a bad habit of renting the same movies over and over…  like Ultraforce… which I was simply enamored with because of the flying motorcycle scene.  The 80s really were a strange time.

 

Derpest Dungeon

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Last night did not exactly go as intended, but it was a pretty great night nonetheless.  Originally I had hopes of getting a Mythic+ group together so that I could use my +5 Maw of Souls keystone.  That said I didn’t really exert a whole lot of effort in finding it either, and when I finally got settled in for the night after a bunch of idling there were only a handful of us on.  Instead I opted to work on my time walking dungeons in the hopes that I might get more of that tasty tasty Essence of Aman’Thul from the weekly quest.  When we got a group together it consisted of Rylacus and his son Tinoke who both still needed 2 dungeons… myself who needed 4 and then Bled and Phy just because they are awesome and love me enough to do a bunch of time walking dungeons.  In truth I had completely pug tanked one of the dungeons so I could have suffered through it if I had to, but I enjoy tanking for my friends way more than I enjoy tanking for strangers.  In any case we got to chit chat back and forth on Discord while doing the dungeons and that made the four go much faster.  I had hoped by the time we finished there might be more people around, so we could pull together that Mythic+ but alas that was not the case.  In truth I am guessing it was a good thing since a crisis arose while we were doing the Time Walking heroics.

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I hate printers, probably more than any piece of equipment ever.  They never seem to work as intended and always require an inordinate amount of fiddling.  One of the things you have to know is that many nights my wife can print as much as an entire ream of paper for her class.  When I am upstairs I am also at least in part the warden of the printer, and get yelled up at to fix issues when they arrise.  Now earlier in the evening she was printing perfectly fine… and then all of the sudden things stopped spooling entirely.  I tried my best to correctly diagnose the problem, but none of the rampant googling actually provided anything that was useful.  Of note… we have a massive workgroup printer that weighs about 200 lbs and is precariously connected to a machine that acts as a print server via parallel to usb cable.  It works 99% of the time but is just brittle enough to make me constantly uncertain of what might be causing the problem.  We tried a sequence of rebooting the laptop and rebooting the “server” to no luck.  She was able to hit file shares on the “server” without issue, but any time she tried to access the printer it said that it did not exist.  However I could print to that printer from any other computer on the network so the connection was still there and active.  Finally in my destination I started fiddling with home group settings, and changed her share settings because I was literally trying everything I could reasonably think of.  Instantly it was like something refreshed her machines permissions and she could suddenly see the printer and life was once again good.  Once again… let me express my undying hatred for printers.

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Apparently Tam had been trying to get a hold of me while deep in printer diagnosis hell.  Over the weekend I made a vague attempt to catch up on the Final Fantasy XIV content, but hit a both literal and figurative wall…  in the form of the Baelsar’s Wall instance.  I was not about to pug tank it… and it turns out apparently I couldn’t anyways because my item level is too low.  I am currently sitting at 220 but apparently need 230 to get there.  When I finally got patched up and logged in, Ash was needing to go to bed which left us with Tam and Kodra and seeing as I had not actually run any of the second half of the derpest dungeon, we opted to form a group for that.  I have to say… while I have struggled in the past to get in and have fun…  the deepest dungeon really hit the spot.  The deepest dungeon serves the purpose of being quite possibly the easiest way to get weapon upgrades, with a mini game system that I have talked about in the past that involves collecting “gear” and leveling both your weapon and armor to 30.  When you have collected 30 you can turn that in for a very solid 235 weapon which would be a sizable upgrade for me.  Now when I entered last night I was sitting at the point where I stopped playing last time… which was somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 weapon and 14 armor.  By the end of the night if I remember correctly I was sitting at 30 weapon and 28 armor… so pretty close to being able to collect my first weapon.  It seems like the 51-100 floors move your item levels considerably faster… either that or we simply got lucky.  To be honest, I had more fun in FFXIV last night than I have in a long time…  and the above screenshot is there to simply serve as a reminder to just how insane Cactuar is as a server.

[Edit] – I can’t re-title the post without breaking every link that I syndicated this morning.  That said I am finding out that “Derp” has some problematic roots and is a word that makes a lot of folks uncomfortable.  It’s not really a word that is of any importance to me so going to attempt to jettison it from my vocabulary.

The String is Life

This morning I am admittedly struggling to both stay awake and come up with anything to talk about.  I have one cat sleeping on the right side, and the other wanting me to play with her instead of write.  Personally I would rather join the right cat and return to slumber time.  I had one of those mornings where I woke up thirty minutes or so from the time my alarm was set to go off.  The problem being that it wasn’t one of those “wake up refreshed” moments, but instead a “please god let me roll over and go back to sleep” moments.  The cat on the left side however wants to play with her new toy.  I have talked about Kenzie and her playing fetch with rubber bands in the past…  but the game has changed.  Last week we had what was supposed to be a sizable ice storm, and in preparation for it I picked up a pair of snow/rain boots for my wife that look mostly like actual proper boots instead of the clunky things we grew up with.  They came bound together with a length of the white stretchy elastic cord…  and Kenzie has adopted this as her new purpose for being.  Much like the rubber band she wants us to throw if for her… which actually works so much better than the rubber band did because firstly it is easier to see, and secondly it has more weight to it and is easier to toss across the room.  She also looks absolutely adorable with this big loop of elastic hanging out of her mouth as she bounds back happily to return it to us.  We’ve tried taking pictures of this but she just moves too fast for the focus to hone in on her.

So while typing this post I am periodically having to throw the string down the hall outside of my office.  She returns it and eventually pesters me to the point that I have to throw it again.  All the while Allie looks so blissful sleeping on a blanket I keep folded neatly on my desk to make her a bed.  In truth I have two blankets on my desk and there are many nights where I will have a cat on either one snoozing while I play games.  The positive thing about the bit of elastic is that while she is obsessed with it, she is not actually bothering Allie our older cat.  The funny part about this whole thing is occasionally she doesn’t return to us at all… but instead will put it somewhere nearby but not quite within reach which I can only assume means she is tired of running for the moment.  Last night for example there was a period of time where she decided to lay on the string.  One side effect of this whole thing is that we have to get the string away from her before bedtime, because she will keep walking back and forth on top of us with the string hoping we will toss it for her.  As a result I have started the practice of sticking the string in my pocket before bedtime and then after we have showered and gotten dressed in the morning giving it back to her.  She surely knows what is happening but so far has not made too much of a fuss about it.

Luna on the other hand is a completely different proposition.  I still have to keep her separated from the other two cats, because she still charges after them whenever she sees them.  Breaking up the cats has lead to lots of wounds on our part, and even needing to take my wife to the ER for IV Antibiotics.  I have a set of four nasty bite marks on my lower calf that are only now starting to look normal.  I have another set on my hand that will likely always be visible scars.  Essentially we just need not to introduce them again, and we sorted out pretty early on that we would end up needing to find Luna a new home.  However that does not mean I am not spending a lot of time with her, because it has become a nightly ritual of closing off my office and bringing her in while I play Destiny.  What I don’t get though… is she sleeps on the exact same blankets that the other cats do… and seems not to even notice the fact that they HAVE to smell like the kitties she is constantly chasing after.  On a positive note however we maybe have a new home for Luna, but it is going to be one of those things that takes a little time.  Ultimately we wanted to find some place that she would feel happy and safe and be the only kitty.  Also I really wanted to find her a home where I could still find out details about her and see how she is doing.  When we ultimately have to give her up… it is going to break my heart because we have bonded.  However her living in my wife’s office and hanging out with me in mine for a few hours each evening… is not exactly a sustainable solution and is not fair to either of us.  She needs a place where she can chill out and snooze in whatever sunny patch she happens to favor that day… rather than being cooped up in a office.  Admittedly said office has a big ole sliding glass door and lots of blankets and chairs to sleep on…  but still not the optimal solution.  I am hoping talking about the potential home doesn’t jinx it.

The other big event happening in my life is that I am starting to stress massively about Pax South which happens next week.  I will be travelling on Thursday and then will be there Friday and Saturday, and driving back home on Sunday.  I talked about this on twitter with another user going through the same thing… but sometimes anxiety is like this brick wall that hits you from seemingly out of nowhere.  I know I will have fun, because I always do… and this year is going to be great given that I don’t have to feel like I am representing anyone other than myself.  The first two years I scheduled interviews and was in theory there to cover certain aspects of the con for another website.  The problem being that sort of focused what exactly I was looking for…  primarily trying to find anything MMO related.  Instead with me just representing myself and our podcast… I feel far more open to talk to anyone and everyone, which I know is something I could have done in the past but I guess it just feels different.  The problem there however is I have to now muster the emotional currency to get out and push myself out of my comfort zone, and actually pass out business cards and such.  I have a massive dose of imposter syndrome when it comes to all of this… because when I hear people talking about “content creators” and “influencers”, it never really feels like they are talking about me.  Content Creator has sort of become synonymous with Youtuber or Streamer…  and it always feels like no one is actually that interested in us Bloggers or Podcasters.  I mean sure I stream and upload videos occasionally… but my primary focus will always be this blog and the things that hang loosely off of it.  So instead I am mustering the strength to totally pretend like I am legit and try my best to push through and talk to all the people.

Nighthold and Senpai

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Last night I managed to pull myself out of my recent funk and actually get more than a modicum of excitement about the prospects of raid night once again.  On Tuesday The Nighthold opened and since we are a Wednesday night raid we hoped that any weirdities would be resolved by then and we could simply get in and start working on clearing new and interesting things.  Thankfully that was the case and we moved forward with only the most spartan scribbled notes to go from as we pushed our way through the boss fights.  We are not exactly a super serious raid, but that said it is nice to keep moving and doing things that are at least progression for our purposes.  Before the launch of Nighthold we managed to clear both Emerald Nightmare and Trial of Valor on Normal, and push all of the way through Heroic Emerald Nightmare and even got it on farm status.  We have a bit of an odd structure in that we raid a single night each week, and then have a second night on Friday that is completely optional.  So up until this week we had been doing Heroic Emerald Nightmare on Wednesdays and attempting to clear Normal Emerald Nightmare and Trial of Valor all within a pretty compressed Friday night.  For the most part it has worked out pretty well for us, because Friday gives us a night to start bringing folks who are maybe not geared enough for the more serious content.

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As far as the fights that we saw… I have to say they were really fun.  We are very much a raid that learns on its feet, or at least needs multiple attempts to sort out the fight.  However generally speaking once we have a fight sorted as such, we then can pretty much repeat it every single week regardless of the exact raid composition.  Skorpyron was absolutely a case of me trying to sort out how exactly to do the tether mechanic effectively and I think we managed to get it down on our third or fourth attempt…  going pretty much from chain rezzing tanks to clear within the space of a single attempt.  Chronomatic Anomaly was its own special hell, but we sorted out how to deal with the tank swaps and the add phases… and the fact that the boss could be moved if only slightly towards the add when it first spawns making the “dunk” go much more smoothly.  Sidenote… the dunk absolutely reminds me of a handful of fights in Destiny where you have to pick up an orb and then slam it down somewhere else… so  I got a bit nostalgic there.  We then moved on to Trilliax… the fight where we get to eat cake… and play with roombas.  To be truthful as the tank I am not entirely certain what is going on other than the fact that it sounded like madness, because Art and I spent our entire time worrying about tank swaps and trying to kite the boss around the room…  or prepping for the next kite phase.  I know it somehow involved eating cake and not eating cake and not allowing the roombas to have any cake.  Whatever the case after a couple of attempts we had one of those slow wipes to the finish line that ended up with a boss kill.

Throughout the night I had been tweeting out each time we downed a boss because I knew there were a few people who could not make it last night, and also a good chunk of our guild as a whole is on twitter.  Over the years I have sorta adopted people and smuggled them into my guild, and now you have the end result that tends to be an amalgamation of awesome.  We were working on clearing the insane amount of trash on the way to Spellblade Aluriel when I got a Battle.net message from a friend of mine that lives on the other side of the faction fence.  He excitedly told me that I apparently got a congratz message from the official World of Warcraft account, and when I alt tabbed over to check myself…  sure enough there was the above message as well as a handful of favorites to go with it.  Senpai apparently noticed us, and smiled upon our progress.  I won’t lie…  it gave me and still does give me a bit of an afterglow of warm fuzzies.  We continued on and put in a little work on Spellblade Aluriel, and managed to at least push into phase 2 before needing to call it for the night.  Like I said we are a bit of an odd case when it comes to raiding because we raid 8 to 10:30 EST, and try really hard not to push too far over that line.  So in that 2 1/2 hours minus a break in the middle when our first flask wears out we managed to clear 3 bosses and at least reach a point of understanding with the fourth.  As is always the case I am certain we will speed up in week too, because it honestly felt like last night we spent more time talking out strategies than actually fighting things.  All in all though it was a pretty great night of raiding in a really pretty instance with some seemingly fun encounters.

Torn on Switch

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Last night was of course the Nintendo Switch reveal stream…  that seemed to occur for pretty much everyone at an extremely awkward time.  For me personally it kicked off about 10 pm, so I was able to tune in as I was winding down a night of running Nightfalls (and sometimes failing) in Destiny with Squirrel and Jex.  I talked a bit yesterday about my mixed feelings regarding the Switch and its launch on twitter.  Every fiber of my being wants this console, but there is also the logic center of my brain that keeps reminding me of the not amazing track record I have with Nintendo consoles.  I will get more into that later, but first to talk about the details we learned last night.  The Switch is in fact coming a lot faster than I expected with a launch window of March 3rd 2017, or for those who think in these terms….  if I am counting correctly 8 weeks from the Friday I am writing this post on.  In the short term I will be able to play the console personally in a few weeks at Pax South, and there will be a series of demo events happening in “major” cities…  which means nowhere event vaguely close to the fly over country where I live.  They have confirmed two launch titles…  the first of which is 1, 2, Switch which is another one of those Nintendo gimmick games like Wii Sports that while extremely fun is in large part a tech demo for all of the new “innovations” they have woven into the new system.  The launch title that matters however is Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Now yesterday I said that a lot of it was going to ultimately come down to price.  The first leaked price of $250 seemed like a viable option and potentially even a day one and pre-order system for me.  Shortly after that another price started circulating which was $350…  and that was definitely going to be a wait and see price point.  The final reveal targeted things at $299 which is a figure that I am not quite sure about one way or the other.  I feel like ultimately…  we are going to need to see more details about what actual titles will be available at launch.  I am not sure if Zelda is enough to push this console for me at the start.  However I also know if the Nintendo track record holds… this means that if you did not pre-order your console it is likely going to be next Christmas before there is a reasonable flow of units to the shelves to allow folks to make that late impulse buy.  I remember when the Wii launched in November, it was late February before I even saw one on a store shelf, and even then it was probably mid summer before they were a regular enough occurrence to warrant not noticing.  Nintendo is extremely horrible with supply chain management and producing anywhere near the right number of units to meet the current demand.  This is evidenced by the fact that you quite literally still can’t find 3DS units on store shelves, from a drought that started around Thanksgiving.  Similarly you essentially have zero shot in hell of finding a Nintendo Classic console yet.

Where my brain begins to temper my desire to buy this console is when I think about my general track record with Nintendo.  Growing up I was absolutely a Nintendo fanboy, getting my Nintendo Classic shortly after release and my Super Nintendo a few months after launch as well.  Similarly I saved up my money and purchased a Gameboy within the first six months.  So when the Nintendo 64 launched in college I was similarly smitten with the console, and spent way more money than we should have been spending at the time for the unit given our already strapped college life existence.  While enamored with the early titles through Zelda…  an event occured that pretty much killed me caring about the later titles.  PC Gaming got absolutely amazing, and I got my 3DFX 2 card which made everything that I was seeing on the Nintendo 64 start to look extremely sluggish and primitive.  So instead of caring about Goldeneye, I was playing GL Quake.  The other problem the Nintendo 64 had was the lack of role-playing game support, and when Squaresoft took the Final Fantasy franchise to the Playstation I followed it.  That said I have so much nostalgia for those early days of Nintendo, so I keep purchasing the consoles hoping to rekindle some of that magic.  In the end however of my consoles they tend to be the ones that gather dust.

The other huge problem that I have found is that my life really does not fit a mobile console that well.  I have both a 3DS and a Vita and they maybe see some play time once a week as I am looking for something to do before falling asleep.  The Wii U seemed like an awesome idea, but the limited range on the unit made it largely useless to me.  My expectation was that I would be able to play the screen unit wherever in the house I wanted to, and maybe even out on the back patio.  The reality however is that I need to remain within roughly 8 feet of the unit to keep a stable connection.  So as a result currently the unit is set up in the bedroom so I can play it from bed… but that makes for awkward gaming any other time.  Ultimately I think the real problem for me with Nintendo is that they seem to be extremely focused on gimmicks.  The Switch as a console is a gimmick, and while I don’t think it will be the frustrating experience for me that the Wii controls were…  I definitely think it is going to attempt desperately to function in methods other than your standard game console.  This focus on gimmickry also seems to come at a massive cost in processing power and graphical performance.  While Zelda Breath of the Wild looked gorgeous in its own way… watching the footage last night it definitely felt like a game that was not quite as detailed as the current generation of console games.  While the Switch has courted Bethesda to put Skyrim on their new console…  Skyrim is also a seven year old game at this point.  In the montage of games… I didn’t see much in the way of modern ports which concerns me that we are setting up for another Wii U situation… where the console is simply not powerful enough to run the style of games that the majority of publishers are creating.  That said… you buy a Nintendo console for the first party games and I really want to see some more firm times on when more of those are releasing before committing.

Distant Horizon

There was a sequence of events that lead me to make the above tweet on Tuesday, namely reading a similar sequence of tweets from Syl and the resulting blog post.  In truth I have felt this way for awhile, where I have been hyper interested in extension content being added onto the games I am already playing, but not extremely interested in anything new coming down the pike.  The launch of Elder Scrolls Online was really the last big event that wrapped me up into the hope, hype, and heartbreak cycle that is the launch of a new MMO property.  I got swept up a bit in Wildstar but that was never really “my game” no matter how much I wanted to try and make it be for the sake of hanging out and playing with friends.  This is not to say that I have not tried a bunch of different games that have released since, but they have all largely left me wanting for this or that feature…  or similarly wanting to remove other features.  The latest boom in the MMO industry has been among a crop of games largely coming from South Korea and they all seem to share a vision of MMOs that doesn’t set that well with me.  Not sure if it is the character design or the focus on eventually funneling players towards a murder box, but whatever the case I tend to bounce pretty hard with ArcheAge being the only game in that larger general classification that I play on a somewhat regular basis.

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As is always the case with our community… when you bring up an issue folks tend to come out of the woodwork to help you with it.  I have to say this is one of the most charming aspects of the world I have gotten myself wrapped up in, even if sometimes I am just shooting off my mouth into the void.  As is to be expected there were a lot of games suggested on the near horizon, and most of them I had already mentally bounced from for one reason or another based on past experiences with similarly constructed experiences.  However buried in that pack of games was one that I had not even heard of…  not that I am actively looking for new MMO properties.  One of my blogger friends Isarii mentioned a game that he was interested in, and was just about to release an interview with called Ashes of Creation.  Like any game I have not heard of I started googling and came across a sequence of videos showing off various aspects of the world, and I am not entirely certain what peaked my interest directly but something did.  Yesterday they also released a much more detailed Q&A video answering some questions from the community, that when taken with the interview with Isarii fills in a bunch of details about the intent of the game.  I will say off the bat there are a lot of things that give me hope, and a lot of things that give me potential heartache.

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The description of the game weaves a pretty lofty tale, hitting most of the features that I have loved from other games.  In the Q&A they talk about the lack of hard faction boundaries, and a part of me almost audibly said “Hell Yeah” at that moment.  However they also talk about this dynamic world with ever changing events based on a node system that allows each node in the world to change and effect the nodes around it.  They talk about the engine of change being conquest and sieges… and that a guild holding a castle will have ramifications on the land surrounding it.  This all sounds amazingly cool on paper but it is also something I am extremely gun shy about.  This has been the pitch of essentially every PVP centric open world sandbox to date, that the players make lasting effects on the world.  What ends up happening instead is that the game devolves into a PVP gankfest for at least the first six months, because there is a certain player base that the idea of ganking defenseless players seems really exciting to.  So while ArcheAge for example is a perfectly reasonable game to play right this moment, it was an extremely toxic game for its first year of life…  until said toxic players were either policed away or got bored and shifted to the next shiny object to take a giant crap on.  So my big concern is exactly what Ashes of Creation is going to do to ensure this doesn’t happen.

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One of the bullet points talked about in Isarii’s interview is that they have a three phased flagging system, and that they hope it will help mitigate this issue.  There will be a non-combatant “green” state, a combatant “purple” state, and corrupt “red” state.  The corruption system sounds an awful lot like going rogue in The Division, or the pirate system in ArcheAge.  Intrepid Studios talks about PVP being optional, but in the description of what a corrupted player is… they mention something that I stuck on mentally.  I am going to quote a section of the interview for the sake of pointing this out a little easier.

Players can kill Combatants without repercussions, and are encouraged to do so, since dying while a Combatant means you suffer reduced death penalties. Where this changes is when a Combatant kills a Non-Combatant. In this case, the Combatant is Corrupt, and acquires a Corruption Score (which is accrued based on a number of different parameters, including the level differential of their freshly slain victim). This Corruption Score can be worked off with effort through a few mechanics, but the primary means of getting rid of it is through death.

The particular phase that is bothering me a bit is “when a Combatant kills a Non-Combatant” because in a traditional MMO flagging system this shouldn’t be a possible thing.  “Green” players are traditionally not able to be attacked, and if this is a game where that is not the case we might already have our first stumbling block for me personally.  Now of note… there is a lot of nuance here that I may simply not be seeing.  Like for example in ArcheAge, as a completely non-combatant player you can find yourself in open pvp flagged zones…  that entering will make you able to be attacked.  So in the case of Ashes of Creation, if there are certain hostile areas that are openly contested…  a player would know that entering there could put them at danger.  I don’t however want to see the bodies of helpless players littering the ground in an otherwise peaceful zone like Elwynn Forest because they died at the hand of a ganker on an abusive power trip.

The idea behind this game feels like one that no one has really been able to implement correctly.  If it works well it could be amazing, but generally speaking it is the player that is the ultimate unraveller of the best made plans.  However all of that said, I am interested enough to have done enough reading and watching to be able to post this post…  so I have to say I am curious about the evolution of this game.  At this very moment everything is so fluid that I am not really certain if the end product is going to be something that I want to play.  If will say that right now it is going to be extremely difficult to implement most of the things they are talking about, but I wish them all the luck in the world at trying to translate the vision into video game.  There are a lot of parts of the Q&A session that remind me of the ill fated Guild Wars 2 Design Manifesto.  The problem with an idea… is once shared it mutates.  So when I read the design manifesto it filled my head with all sorts of ideas and dreams of a better game that the reality never came close to living up to.  Watching the Q&A session for Ashes of Creation did the same thing… filled my head with a bunch of fevered dreams about all of the things that I wish I could have seen in this MMO or that.  It is this whirlwind of “wouldn’t it be cool” ideas that have been collected and carefully curated into the game these folks always wanted to work on.  However there is always a chunk of nuance that is lost when you speak your vision, or commit it to paper.  In doing so…  that vision loses some of the sharp edges and becomes much more hazy.  Based on the goals set out… this game could either be literally the game I always wanted to play…  or yet another disappointment that cannot quite live up to my technicolor dreams of the way things “should work”.  Regardless… in the coming months and years… as likely will be the case…  I am going to follow Ashes of Creation as it evolves and see if it can deliver on any of my hopes and is worthy of my hype.  All the while of course being extremely afraid of that heartache that often comes afterwards.

Lobbing SIVA Charges

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Last night did not go entirely as planned, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a pretty amazing night.  The original plan that I had in my head was an attempt at completing the Nightfall bounty on as many characters as I could for shots at the Icebreaker.  However as the day went on that plan slowly morphed into going to my very first Wrath of the Machine raid.  So around 8pm last night we managed to pull together the six players needed for the raid and I shifted into full on learner mode.  Destiny is one of those games where I am constantly amazed at the level of dedication the community has.  A raid in Destiny is this complex sequence of events that have to be completed in a specific way…  and the first time I step into one of the encounters it is full on information overload.  I find it interesting how fast the community as a whole crowd sources the solution to the fights, sharing tidbits of information and ultimately mapping strategies for how to complete them.  I say this because the fights themselves are actually messaged somewhat poorly as to what you should be doing at any given time.  Since I am very much a “learn by doing” player, it means for the first few raids I ultimately feel completely lost.

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What is extremely interesting about Wrath of the Machine versus Kings Fall is that the “roles” are not necessarily fixed.  In Kings Fall you could essentially put your most seasoned player on the job of doing whatever was the most important task on a given fight.  While there was a certain measure of randomness, like who got chosen to run the spark on the invisible platforms…  others like the person getting Golgoroth’s Gaze were very much something you had in your control.  As a result to some extent it was much easier to carry a new player through and allow them to see the fights in motion, before they were ever expected to take up a key roll in the fight.  That is very much NOT the case in Wrath of the Machine given the game shifts the roles around quickly and while you might be dpsing one moment, the next you might be needing to toss SIVA charges at fixed markers.  The hardest of these fights for me to grok was the Aksis encounter where the raid divided up into three sides, and the game randomly empowered three players at a time…  sometimes requiring you to shift around quickly to cover a side if it did not have an empowered player.  The end result is that new players ultimately have to learn quickly because you never know exactly when that key role is going to fall on your shoulders.

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There were several points during the night where I absolutely know I failed at various mechanics, but while moving through the content I started to get a feel for what I was doing wrong and how to correct it.  Now with Kings Fall, most of the encounters were fairly easy…  but it was the jumping sequences that were the bane of my existence.  With Wrath of the Machine, the encounters themselves seem to be the challenge, and while I died a few times during the much shorter jumping sequences they didn’t see anywhere near as nerve wracking as disappearing ships over of a giant open chasm.  Last night was also important because it marked the first time I had really done large group content with Tequila Mockingbird my clan.  It has been over six months since Axioma clan was dissolved in a fit, and [TQMB] was formed out of the ashes.  It definitely feels like we wound up with the absolutely best natured of folks for the reboot.  Within minutes I felt right back at home, which I guess is a strange statement considering I have been proudly sporting the clan tag since the moment the reboot happened.

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So while I had no real intent of raiding last night, I am super happy to have seen the content now and to have gotten some of the really awesome stuff that drops there.  There seems to be a massive problem with duplicates from the SIVA key caches.  On the first boss encounter I got the Ether Nova fusion rifle… and then turned around and got the same thing from the cache.  From the second encounter I managed to pick up Arms, that I am extremely happy about given that they have the crazy heavy ammo trait.  From the third encounter, I picked up an Artifact which is decent but it is really hard to get excited over an artifact when I am apparently now swimming in 400 light ones.  From the final phase of the Aksis encounter I walked away with the Genesis Chain auto rifle, and then spent a key and got an exact duplicate.  Past that I wound up with three exotics from the run:  4th Horseman, Hereafter, and Crest of Alpha Lupi.  The first two turning into shards since I don’t really like either weapon, and the last from an engram serving as infusion fodder for the Twilight Garrison I had yet to upgrade.

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I spent a bit of time after the raid running around in the Plaguelands patrol zone to play with both the Auto Rifle and the Fusion Rifle and I like both.  The Genesis Chain feels really awesome when you get headshots and cause the firefly to proc since it has a unique sound effect that goes with it.  The Fusion Rifle… largely just feels like a competent Fusion Rifle.  I sincerely doubt I will be giving up either The Branded Lord or Saladins Vigil for it, but it is nonetheless a reasonable weapon that is probably going to get ferried off to one of my alts.  I have heard it works really amazingly in Crucible, so I will have to give it a shot there.  It is bizarre how I have gone from being someone that NEVER used Fusion Rifles, to being someone who largely now favors them over Shotguns for close to medium range engagement.  The other really awesome thing that happened is that I am now flagged to do the Outbreak Prime quest, which honestly could be an entire post in itself.  It turns out that Lexy is also stalled on this quest, so that gives us Hunter and Titan… and we just need to find a Warlock to ride along with us since that quest requires you to group up all three classes to progress.  Wondering if maybe some point this weekend we can knock out the required pieces so that by the time the reset rolls around we are working on the final step which is the run the raid again.

 

400 Light Solo

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This mornings post is something I have been kicking around in my head for awhile.  If you have read any of my blog over the last few years, you will already know that I am nigh obsessed with Destiny.  I am not exactly sure what it is about this game that draws me to it so much, but I am smitten.  One of the big problems however is that it can be more than a little obtuse for new players.  There are so many things that you COULD be doing… that it is sometimes hard to identify what it is that you SHOULD be doing.  One of the key goals in the game is the improving of your light level, which is for all intents and purposes exactly the same thing as the modern MMO concept of item level.  Higher light level means you simply perform better, in having slightly better stats on your gear… as well as doing more damage.  Your light level also dictates how well you will perform against the various levels of content in the game from Patrols, to Strikes, to Raids each with their own suggested light levels.

Now throughout Taken King I raided with then Axioma Clan and now Tequila Mockingbird, but with the release of Rise of Iron I simply haven’t been able to align my schedule to be available for raiding…  given that for a lot of it I have been raiding in two other games.  That did not however change my desire to keep improving and bumping my gear towards the currently light cap of 400.  Over the break I managed to push my Titan main to 400 light, and my Warlock and Hunter are lagging slightly behind at 399 and 398 respectively.  I managed to do this entirely through doing solo content with a few hours per sitting of time invested, and honestly…  I did it mostly wrong.  The problem with Destiny information is that most of it that you will find are either in insanely long and difficult to parse Reddit posts, or in a plethora of YouTube videos that you have to listen to a few times to really grok what they are saying.  What doesn’t really help is that most of the “get to 400” information is targeted at folks who ground it up as soon as the game came out and are now trying to explain how it was that they got there.  I have the benefit of having just reached 400 light on my Playstation Main…  and am now slogging my way back there on my alternate Xbox One account.

New To Destiny

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One of the problems with Destiny is that it is really bad at on-boarding new players.  At this point there are likely two different categories of players that might be looking at this guide.  Firstly they purchased the game at launch, played it… got frustrated and are now contemplating coming back.  Second is that they never got into it… and want to get started but find all of the options for purchasing the game confusing.  Regardless you are likely honestly wanting the Destiny Collection, which is a set that includes all content released to this point and will upgrade existing accounts to bring them current.  Please note that you absolutely want to be current because honestly Destiny does not function nicely if you are not up to the latest version of the game.  Largely speaking you are simply limited in what you can do… and this guide of sorts is going to focus on players you are caught up to the Rise of Iron release of the game.  The other confusing thing is that long term Destiny players like myself tend to refer to things as years.  So for the sake of clarification…

Year One

  • Destiny Original Release
  • Dark Below Expansion
  • House of Wolves Expansion

Year Two

  • The Taken King Release

Year Three

  • The Rise of Iron Release

Now your first instinct is going to be that you need to play through all of the original content, then all of the Dark Below content, then all of the House of Wolves content, then the Taken King content, and finally end up with Rise of Iron.  On this I am torn because I absolutely think it is worth playing through all of the content available, especially the two expansions from year one because they are going to give you bits of information that will help to fill in gaps in your knowledge as you do various strikes.  However started at Year One and leveling your way slowly to Year Three is probably the least efficient way that you can be playing this game.  From the standpoint of getting to 400 light… literally everything that happens in Year One is going to be of no long term use to you other than taking up space in your vault as a collectible.

The Infusion System

For the most part Year One was full of a lot of mistakes on how to make content that ages gracefully, and with Year Two they introduced the infusion system allowing you to essentially grow your weapons and armor with you by infusing items into them.  Thankfully if you are coming into the game now, you also missed a completely frustrating grind that was the infusion calculation system because during most of Year Two this was an extremely lossy system.  For example if you took a 300 light item and infused a 308 light item into it…  you were likely going to end up with a 304 light item as a result.  With an update in 2015 they shifted this so that infusion was a one for one increase… meaning if you took that same 300 light item and infused a 300 light item into it…  you wound up with a 308 light item.  However this only applies to items that dropped from Year 2 or Year 3 content…  meaning everything from Year 1 will functionally be locked at the gear levels from that era.

Boosting to the Rescue

The other main problem with playing through content as it was designed is that your light levels are going to increase extremely slowly.  Destiny is confusing in that it has physical levels…  and light levels.  When you finish the base game you will be sitting at around physical level 14… and completing both Dark Below and House of Wolves should be able to take you to level 20 without much issue.  Taken King content opens at level 20… and takes you to physical level 40.  However upon exiting the content you are going to be sitting somewhere around 180-200 light.  The Rise of Iron content expects you to be at a minimum of 280 light level, which was the Year 2 floor for being completely outfitted in beginner Legendary gear.  If we imagine that you are at 200 light, it is going to take an awful lot of grinding older content to get to 280 and again… that is largely going to be wasted time since the goal has moved on you and are looking at 400 light as the new target.

Buying either Rise of Iron or the Collection both give you a boost that you can use to take your character to level 40… and also outfit them in a full set of 280 blue gear, instantly giving you access to start the newest content.  If you want to see the older content, I honestly at this point suggest going ahead and boosting and then just playing through it for the sake of seeing the story…  knowing that the only thing of use that you are going to get out of it is some engrams.  For the sake of speed and getting you on the path to 400 light fastest… I also suggest playing through the Rise of Iron story as soon as you reasonably can.  I did it last night on my 280ish geared Xbox One character and had no real problem making it through the missions.  That said… I play a lot of Destiny and there are a few places where the missions can be a little brutal like during the final fight of the opening Rise of Iron mission.  However completing the Rise of Iron is going to outfit your character in a full set of 320 blue gear, putting you on a much better ground for starting the push to 400 light.

Level Plateaus

Another concept that you are going to need to learn is that the game rations how much light you can get from certain content.  As a result I am going to give you some advice that is going to seem counter intuitive at first.  Don’t decode Blue, Purple or god forbid Orange engrams while you are leveling.  The temptation is going to be great to rush over to the Cryptarch and see what new and shiny loot you get…  but that effort is going to be wasted for the most part until you are at least ready to begin the light push in proper.  You are going to ultimately thank yourself later once you reach certain light plateaus that you have a much needed boost waiting for you in the bank.  I am going to lay out the various light plateaus and then talk you through them.

  • Blue (Rare) Engrams – These Max out at 365 light
  • Purple (Lengendary) Engrams – These Max out at 385 light
  • Faction Package Loot – These Max out at 390 light
  • Orange (Exotic) Engrams – These Max out at 400 light with some caveats
  • “End Game Activities” – Max out at 400 light

The general theory being that you hold all of your engrams until you are at least to the 320 light level that you exit Rise of Iron with.  From there you decrypt your blues and do so in a slow and methodical faction.  Light level is an average, and your engrams will decode to the same light or slightly higher than whatever your current light level happens to be.  So that means as you decode them you want to be doing so as evenly as possible.  So you might decode a helm… equip it, and then decode a chest piece… equip it…  then a weapon…  equip it.  Essentially you are trying to stair step up your light as much as you can before decoding the next engram.  When you hit 365 light in every slot… you start working on your purples and do the same stair stepping manor until you have everything sitting at 385.  Then… you really do not touch your exotics until you have hit 390 loot off of faction packages.  Finally and this one gets awkward quickly… you decode exotics until you reach around 399.  There seems to be a bug in place where once you get past 399 you stop reliably getting upgrades from Exotics.  Sure you can get 400s… but during my most recent slot I would say 80% or so of the exotics I decrypted sat at 399 light instead of going on up to 400 making it heartbreaking.  I saved the remaining exotics for after I actually hit 400 to use as infusion fodder.

Bridging the Gaps

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Quite simply put… there is no way you are going to have enough engrams to get you all of the way through the light leveling process.  This is where all of the other activities come into play.  I personally did a ton of bounties to help start getting me faction packages along the way.  In the above image you see three types of bounties, the first row being the new Strike Bounties that will give you reputation with the Vanguard and your chosen faction that you should have joined by now…  Dead Orbit/Future War Cult/New Monarchy.  The middle row are the traditional Vanguard Packages that can be completed anywhere in the game and these give Vanguard and Faction reputation same as the strike bounties.  The last row are the Crucible bounties that give you reputation with Lord Shax, but pay special attention to these because some of them require you to be a member of a fire team…. and while technically every group is a fire team…  they mean one that you formed yourself.  Here is an attempt at a list of the things that you can do to get past various light plateaus.

365 Light Barrier

  • Blue (Rare) Engrams
  • Siva Crisis Strike List

Side note during this grind…  Siva Crisis Strike list also has the ability to drop Skeleton Keys used to open the Hoard Chests at the end of the strike.  Once again hold these in reserve because you are going to need the light boost to hit 400 and each chest you open will reward you one Legendary and one Rare item up to 400 light.  So start stockpiling keys now as you go through this process.

385 Light Barrier

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  • Purple (Legendary) Engrams
  • Archon’s Forge event in Plaguelands Patrol Zone
  • Heroic Siva Crisis Strike List
  • Normal Mode Wrath of the Machine Raid

While this is a guide largely targeted at soloing your way to 400 light… I did include the raid content in the list because it also bridges the gap if that is something you have the opportunity to run easily.

390 Light Barrier

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  • Package Loot
    • Vanguard – Tower
    • Crucible – Tower
    • Faction (Dead Orbit/Future War Cult/New Monarchy) – Tower
    • Gunsmith – Tower
    • Eris Morn – Tower
    • Variks – Reef
    • Petra Venj – Reef

Now of note… while you are getting to this point you are going to start getting package loot already.  There is no real way to hold multiple packages in reserve, and you need to be watching your faction ranks manually because as far as I know when you gain a new rank… and have not collected the previous faction package it is lost.  Now I have not experienced this personally, but it is the wisdom of the community that this is apparently a thing that can happen.  This is especially important when you are grinding out a bunch of Crucible matches or Strikes in a row… because the faction goes quickly if you are not watching it.

400 Light Barrier

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  • Orange (Exotic) Engrams
  • Archon’s Forge – Ghost and Artifact slots only
  • Crucible Matches
  • Strike Hoard Chests – Requires 1 Skeleton Key each
  • Iron Banner – Monthly Crucible Event
  • Nightfall Strike – Once Weekly Per Character
  • Trials of Osiris – Serious Team vs Team Event
  • Hard Mode Wrath of the Machine Raid

So something important of note…  Rise of Iron came out in September and I am just now hitting the level 400 light cap.  I am slow as hell and I did not do things in the most opportune fashion.  I broke every single rule that I lined out in this guide, because I was not super focused on getting there as quickly as possible.  However expect that each step in this ladder is probably going to take twice as long as the last step, with the last 10 points taking easily the longest if you don’t have access to something like the raid… or a team that can carry you to the tower each week in Trials of Osiris.  Your absolute best bet is going to be something like the Iron Banner which has a really good drop rate for gear.  The gotcha there however is that each month the Lady Efrideet (pictured above) only brings a few items to the tournament.

This past Iron Banner for example she brought Class Items, Helms, Fusion Rifles and Scout Rifles, so when you add to it the chance of an Artifact or Ghost Shell dropping which is always the case with Iron Banner that gives you six possible items you can get at the end of matches, out of the total 10 slots that you eventually need to raise your light.  There are also four bounties that you can complete each time the event runs, and two reward gear drops, and the other two reward weapon drops… that can drop something that in the current months assortment of items.  The absolute best case scenario is that you save these until the end of the week because they will reward you based on your current equipped light levels… and hopefully by the end of the tournament you will have bumped up your light a bit.  There is also a catch up mechanic that makes gaining faction with the Iron Banner faster on your alts, so in theory I try and run multiple characters through at a time to get more than one set of these packages.  However you are going to have to stomach the crucible, so if you are a strictly non-pvp player this might be a step too far for you.

The Missing Pieces

Ultimately whatever path you choose, there is likely going to be a point where you cannot get the drop you need to take you from 399 to 400.  For me that item slot was my Heavy Weapon, and nothing I did seemed to be willing to drop one.  I finally got it from decoding a Legendary engram, which of note… there is always a slight chance that Rares upgrade into Legendary and Legendary into Exotics.  Hell yesterday I even managed to pull a 400 Mida Multitool off of a Rare Primary Engram… so that is also a thing, but just don’t bank on that actually happening.  Where the Hoard Chests at the end of strikes come in handy is that each one of them has a chance of dropping a specific set of loot, with a loot table of generally only a couple of items per chest available.  The below image is from an excellent reddit post where they took the time to format all of the information in which item drops from which Hoard chest in table form.

hoardlootlist

If you are interested in which specific drops come from which specific chest… then I suggest you check out this visual guide both of these I am simply referencing for the sake of space and my sanity rather than recreating in blog form.  I have recently been chaining strikes in the effort to get an Imago Loop with a decent roll for example.  Regardless you should be able to target specific strikes in spending those keys that I hope at this point you have stockpiled and get yourself the rest of the way to 400 in no time.

But What About Xur?

destiny-xur-inventory-october-30

Honestly I largely left Xur off the initial list… because honestly you never know from week to week if he is going to bring something useful.  When you take that can combine it with the fact that for the last two weeks Xur has not brought Three of Coins…  it feels like his purpose is a bit up in the air at the moment.  Previously Three of Coins was a bizarre stacking buff system that made it so that you had an increasing chance of getting an exotic engram to drop any time you killed an ultra, or completed a crucible match.  Traditionally this was the thing that I saved my Strange Coins for… and popped one anytime I was chain running Crucible or Strike content.  It has problems but it is a nice way of increasing the chance especially new players have of seeing interesting loot.  As far as the items he brings, in Year 3 they are all 350 light level and I absolutely abused this fact on my Xbox One account to get a short term boost in light and also provide me with a decent weapon to finish content on.  Each week Xur brings one weapon, one warlock armor, one hunter armor and one titan armor.  The combination of things you can get however are like I said at the start totally random… and some of the exotic rolls are notoriously bad like bringing items with straight intellect or discipline rolls making it hard to balance your gear around that.  They can of course be re-rolled using Glass Needles that he also sells, and recently he has started selling Exotic Shards making upgrading those Exotics lining your bank significantly easier.  Essentially I check one of the many youtubers Xur videos Friday morning, or hit WhereIsXur.com to see what he is selling an determine if I care about it for the weekend.  Traditionally speaking Saturday night after we recorded our Podcast I would pop over and liquidate my stock of Strange Coins into Three of Coins.  He arrives in the wee hours of Friday morning, and disappears in the wee hours of Sunday morning, so you have a limited chance to get items from him, but it is definitely something worth checking out.  I just wouldn’t count on actually getting something you needed from him.